Apple iPhone 4S users who thought they could get away from the total ban against electronic devices while driving by using Siri will still be held accountable if federal regulators will have their way.
The U.S. National Transportation Board issued a recommendation last week that state governments in the U.S. should ban all driver use of cell phones, handheld and hands free phones, and other portable electronic devices except in cases of emergencies. The recommendation was agreed to unanimously by the five member board and exceeds any state laws prohibiting texting and cellphone use by drivers.
The board doesn't have the power to force states to impose the proposed ban but its recommendations do carry significant weight with federal regulators. The NTSB recommendation was made following an investigation of a Missouri pile-up that killed two people and injured 38 others. It was discovered that the driver of one of the vehicles had received numerous text messages before the crash occurred.
While many states do enforce no texting while driving bans, it's the NTSB's recommendation of banning even hands-free sets that has caused the most controversy. The response to the proposed ban has been largely negative. However there is scientific evidence that talking on the phone whether handheld or hands-free impairs driving. An analysis by Jim Hedlund, a safety consultant and former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration official, examined 300 cellphone studies for the Governors Highway Traffic Safety Administration and concluded that there is little evidence that hands-free mobile phone use is less risky than handheld use.
Detractors of the proposed ban pointed out that drivers are also distracted by other things like eating, talking with other people in the car and in-car entertainment. Can researchers really give hard evidence that talking on mobile phones more dangerous than fiddling on the car radio or scrolling through the GPS screen to look at directions? Enforcing the law will also be a headache. How will officers differentiate between a person talking to a passenger and talking on a hands-free phone?
The only solution isn't more laws but more self-discipline by drivers. Responsible use of all electronic devices is the answer not a blanket ban on all mobile phones.
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