Thursday, July 23, 2009

Shut up and just drive

As the saying goes, be afraid when you hear “We’re from the government and we are here to help you.” Congress yet again is living down to that motto, and in this case they are playing with your life and the lives of everyone else on the road or even crossing the road.

An article in the July 21 New York Times about cell phone use while driving has revealed that members of Congress pressured the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration into playing down data that indicate hands-free cell phones are just about as dangerous to use while driving as hand-held devices.

Using Freedom of Information Act requests, The Center for Auto Safety and Public Citizen watchdog groups unearthed the findings and their suppression under the Bush Administration.

It’s long been argued that the simple act of carrying on a conversation isn’t so simple; it diminishes your ability to focus on traffic and on conditions around you. That’s true whether you’re sitting at a lunch counter or behind the wheel. But the focus in many places has been to require hands-free phone equipment – Bluetooths, headsets, speakerphones – the idea being that drivers will put down the phones and put those hands back on the wheel. Uh-huh.

Those of you who always drive with both hands – hold one up. Thank you, sir, there in the back.

This news won’t change human behavior – and drivers, I see you yakking away, and maybe texting as well. But maybe it will ratchet up the pressure on states to toughen up on multitasking gadgets on the road – though enforcing it will be next to impossible.