Do you support a complete ban on cell phones in cars?

I'll admit it, I'm biased. I work for a company (QNX) whose software is used in millions of automotive handsfree systems. So I have a personal stake in the handsfree market. Having said that, I have a hard time with laws that would ban all cellphone use in the car, including handsfree calls. Yet that's exactly what the US National Safety Council (NSC) is asking for.

Don't get me wrong. I think you should eliminate every possible distraction when driving. If you don't need to talk on the phone, be it handheld or handsfree, then don't. Keep your mind focused on the road instead. Because, hey, my wife and son are on the road, too.

Still, a handsfree system has some definite advantages over a handheld phone. For one thing, it lets you drive with both hands. And it doesn't force you to take your eyes off the road. So I don't see how legislating handsfree systems out of existence is the best possible solution.

Are government agencies justified in worrying about cell phone use, both handheld and handsfree? You bet. The freedom to call your girlfriend while driving along a busy street must take second place to ensuring that you don't kill someone in the process.

I'm questioning, though, whether a complete ban is the right way to go. Zero-tolerance solutions tend to ignore the fact that a healthy society must achieve an optimal balance between freedom, responsibility, and risk.

What do you think? A total ban? A ban for certain devices, situations, or drivers? For instance, should laws allow adults to use handsfree systems only, while forbidding teenagers from making any kind of phone call? Would it help if drivers had to take a course on responsible use of handsfree systems?


Stay said...

I would totally ban it as well. When you talk with somebody that is in the car, most of the time that person is aware of what is going on and will stop talking or at least pause when more concentration is required of the driver.

But over a cell phone that doesn't happen and the driver is less likely to have the needed attention for what's on the road.

I see it all the time....

Paul N. Leroux said...

I know what you mean: I live in Ottawa, where roads are often icy, yet people still insist on having drawn-out conversations on their handheld cell phones. Crazy. Still, I think some alternatives could work. For instance, allowing handsfree calls when the car is at rest (at a red light, for example) or traveling below a certain speed. A factory-installed handsfree system could enforce this "rule."