A powerful US lobbying group wants to ban the use of cell phones while driving - all cell phone use, including hands-free operation.
The National Safety Council (NSC) - a 94-year-old, congressionally chartered non-profit organization with 55,000 member companies - released a statement today that calls upon private citizens to shut up and drive, businesses to ban cell-phone use by their mobile employees, and state lawmakers to enact legislation to criminalize in-car phone calls.
When automotive cell-phone calls are outlawed, only outlaws will make automotive cell-phone calls.
According to the NSC's president and CEO, Janet Froetscher, “Studies show that driving while talking on a cell phone is extremely dangerous and puts drivers at a four times greater risk of a crash.”
Interestingly, the study most prominently cited by the NSC was performed in 2002 by the Harvard Center of Risk Analysis, the same organization hat had conducted a similar study two years earlier that had concluded that "The risks [of using a cell phone while driving] appear to be small compared to other daily risks but are uncertain."
The NSC also cited a 2006 University of Utah study concluding that "people are as impaired when they drive and talk on a cell phone as they are when they drive intoxicated."
Also cited are studies showing that no safety improvements are gained by the use of hands-free devices and that talking with a passenger is "significantly safer" than holding a cell-phone conversation.
According to the NSC, making hand-held cell phone calls is currently illegal in California, Washington, Utah, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Froetscher wants to expand no-use laws to blanket the nation. "It’s time to take the cell phone away," she said.
Although we have no desire to refute these and many other studies that have inspired the NSC to lead this crusade, we can't help lament the ongoing and seemingly incessant efforts by the nanny state to legislate common sense.
Maybe Froetscher is right when she says that "There will be a day...when we look back and wonder how we could have been so reckless with our cell phones and texting devices."
But if the NSC and their legislative allies have their way, that day may come when we are all securely encased in bubble wrap and duct-taped to a comfy couch. ®