We’ve been heeding calls to hang up and drive for a long time now, but there may be one that’s bigger than the rest: the National Transportation Safety Board is proposing a countrywide ban on mobile phone use.
The push came this morning from the board, headed by Chairman Deborah Hersman. Hersman is quoted as saying “no call, no text, no update is worth a human life.”
From the looks of it, the NTSB is recommending a regulation that would outlaw the use of mobile phones for voice or text communication, even those utilized through headsets or portable speakers. That would outlaw the use of Bluetooth and wired apparatuses, as well as speakerphones and Bluetooth-connected car stereos. Reports say that the NTSB wants to exempt systems like OnStar and GPS navigation from an all-encompassing portable device ban.
The issue with this, of course, is that a countrywide ban on mobile phone and portable electronic device use would be incredibly hard to enforce. All ten of the top 10 cars sold last month have some sort of hands-free calling feature available, most using the now-ubiquitous Bluetooth connectivity.
Even OnStar, a system that was called out as a system that would be safe from regulation, would be cut in half: an OnStar-equipped vehicle would keep its telematics system, keeping things like automated crash response, turn-by-turn directions, and remote start/unlock. But it would potentially be stripped of any feature that uses a telephone, including hands-free calling and speaking with OnStar advisors.
It’s important to know at this point that the NTSB has little in the way of legislative teeth — a recommendation like this must go pretty far before it actually stands a chance of implementation. From here, a recommendation needs to be developed further by the National Highway Transit Safety Administration and the United States Congress. Even then, it must take the form of a law that compels each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia to enact a regulation.
Will a broad, hard-hitting idea like this make it from paper to real life? It’s anyone’s guess, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t say that lobbying totals for the Telecommunications and Automotive industries last year totaled about $89 million, which could throw a lot of weight in the fight for or against using phones in cars.
What say you: is this just what we need, or is it a bit far-reaching? Let the debate fly in the comments section below.