Hands off that handsfree phone!

As Washington launches a new crusade against “cognitive distraction” behind the wheel, it no longer seems to matter whether your eyes and hands are in correct driving position. I explain in a new Cato post.

More: Glenn Reynolds (NTSB “distracted” by its own pre-existing agenda and oversimplifying causes of Missouri accident) and more, Chapman, Marc Scribner/CEI (even bans on texting don’t seem to have worked as intended), Amy Alkon, (two years back) Radley Balko, and Ira Stoll (per IIHS, quoted on NPR, “states with cellphone bans have seen no real decrease in accident rates”). And: drivers’ use of portable GPS and MP3 devices to be included in contemplated ban? [NMA]


  • Will this also apply to police cars? In addition to communications devices (hands free), I believe they are now equiped with computers which could be even more distractiing than texting.

  • I would think that children would represent a much larger distraction. Why not require soundproof enclosures for all children <13yr of age while they are at it?

  • Breaker-Breaker one nine-er!
    Tell that to the truckers who ride the nation’s roads.

  • Mandatory soundproof enclosures for children? Where were you guys 20 years ago!

  • I guess this will render my car’s built-in blue-tooth useless.

    The CT governor has already stated that there are no plans to change their state law to follow the recommendation.

  • There is at least preliminary evidence that imposing phone and texting bans increases the accident rate, because people talk and text more furtively, thereby distracting themselves more, and increasing the eyes off road time.

    Next thay’ll want to make it a felony.

  • Soundproof enclosures? That is a good illustration of why we have to get more aggressive on cell phones. I’m sure soundproof enclosures would safe lives. But there is a cost would make it prohibitive and it would create other risks (you can’t hear your child choking, for example).

    Let’s contrast the prohibitive cost of soundproof enclosures with babbling on about nothing on your cell phone to keep you from being bored when you are driving or, worse, firing off that quick text.

    I also think that data seems to show that cell phone usage is a great threat than other forms of distracted driving, including having children in the car.

    Stalin, said a single death is a tragedy but a million deaths are a statistic (or something like that). Google cell phone use accident statistics and find sources you trust. It is unbelievably alarming.

    One reason why the alarm is not louder, I think, is that there are crosswinds. Cars are getting safer and DWIs are down in most places. So injuries from car accidents should be in more of a free fall but these cell phone related accidents are cutting into the fatality decreases we should be harvesting from these improvements.

  • larry,

    Police using computers may be a problem. Of course speeding and not wearing a seatbelt would be a problem as well.

    Tragically, this is proven by:

    A Delray Beach police sergeant who died in a horrific crash in February west of Boca Raton was running late for his early-morning shift, speeding at 70 mph and not wearing his seat belt, according to a final investigation released Wednesday.

    Sgt. Adam Rosenthal, 39, also may have been distracted by his in-car computer, which was turned on just minutes before the 6:15 a.m. crash, the report concluded.
    The speed limit for that curved section of the road is 45 mph, but the patrol car’s computer showed under later analysis that Rosenthal was speeding at approximately 70 mph in the moments before the crash, according to the report by Palm Beach County sheriff’s traffic-homicide investigators.

    Source: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/palm-beach/west-boca/fl-delray-officer-fatal-crash-20111214,0,927609.story

    “Do as I say and not as I do.”

  • That last part should be controlling: if the law doesn’t reduce accidents, then scrap it and ask why afterward.

  • All I need to know is that far away look people get in their eyes when they’re on the phone. Nothing else matters. We’ve all seen it. And as a big-time urban pedestrian, I don’t want someone with a far away look in his eye failing to see me as he bears down on in a crosswalk.

    Just pull over to talk. It’s easy.

    This is not a liberty issue. Driving, by necessity, is a heavily regulated activity. (Imagine a rule-free expressway. You’d rather not? I rest my case.) And this is a totally reasonable regulation.

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