NEWS ANALYSIS: The NTSB wants to make highways safer for drivers. However, banning talking on cell phones is a complicated endeavor.
Transportation Safety Board has issued a recommendation that states pass laws
to ban the use of cell phones for all drivers. The recommended ban, which the
NTSB officially announced Dec. 12, has merit, especially in light of the tragic
accident Aug. 5, 2010, in Gray Summit, Mo., in which the driver of a pickup
truck sent 11 text messages in the 11 minutes prior to the accident that killed
him and injured a number of passengers on two school buses.
than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related
accidents", said NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman. "It is time for all
of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving. No
call, text or update is worth a human life."
While the ban
on the use of cell phones while driving is admirable, regulation, monitoring
and enforcement is another matter. There also must be some provisions for
emergency use when, for example, the driver needs to make a call regarding a
straightforward way to ensure that the person driving is not using their cell
phone is to disable the smartphone while the car is moving. A number of companies
have announced a variety of solutions that use mobile technology to prevent
calling or texting while driving: Illume Software
(from iSpeech) and odbEdge
(CellControl) are all developing systems that work in various ways
to prevent calling and texting while driving.
a new area of law is going to develop around the topic of the legality and
liability of people using a cell phone while driving. How do you know if
someone is texting while driving if they are holding the phone in their lap, or
texting with the phone on the seat or the midsection between the front
seats? What if you have a medical emergency and need to call for help? How
do you disable the software for an emergency?
It's easy to
see there is going to be a lot of confusion on how to enforce the new
laws. You can hear an attorney's argument to the court right now: "My
client wasn't texting. He was simply listening to music on his phone."
solutions use GPS to determine if you're driving on a highway. The
software runs in the background of a smartphone and comes to life when it
detects that the device is moving faster than a preset velocity, typically 5
mph. Once it detects that the phone is moving, it makes the phone temporarily
inoperable, except in the case of emergency calls to a few preset
numbers. Subscribers cannot text or make phone calls while the car is
of the control software use mapping information, as well as GPS, so the
software can detect whether the driver is actually driving on a highway, or sitting
on a train or using mass transit.
I believe that
the solution to this problem lies with the insurance industry. Insurers can set
prices much higher if the insured doesn't have the software that disables the
phone once the car is moving.
if you have the software installed, your insurance rates will drop.
would say in 20 or 30 years-the technology should be in place to eliminate the
need for people to drive their vehicles at all. Instead, people will input the
destination through a keyboard or control panel, select a place on a map or
verbalize the location, and the car's control systems will simply take you to
happens, you can return to using your cell phone to make calls, read emails or
do text messaging while the car is moving.
meantime, do yourself, your fellow drivers and your loved ones a favor: Put
your phone down while you're driving. Or pull over to the side of the road if
you have to send an important message or make an important call. It should be
obvious that hands-free cellular voice is much less distracting than texting or
replying to email and, therefore, won't likely be outlawed. It shouldn't take
the NTSB to dictate common sense rules when Americans drive.