Once upon a time, the NHSA wanted to ban the use of cellphones while driving


Seven years ago the National Highway Safety Administration called for a complete and total ban on the use of cellphones while driving. That includes hands-free kits, too. Now, a lot has changed in the seven years since this draft proposal was made—for one, the number of cellphones in the U.S. has gone from 170 million to 270 million.

The NHSA made the call because it wasn’t convinced that at-the-time legislation would effectively stamp out unsafe driving behavior. People would either ignore it and get into the habit of talking while driving, or they’d gravitate to hands-free devices and still drive unsafely. (Walking on the sidewalk while talking on the phone is hard enough, so I can’t even imagine trying to drive and talk.)

Anyhow, here’s the language of the report that concerns us:

We recommend that drivers not use these devices when driving, except in an emergency. Moreover, we are convinced that legislation forbidding the use of handheld cell phones while driving may not be effective in improving highway safety since it will not address the problem. In fact, such legislation may erroneously imply that hands-free phones are safe to use while driving.

There’s been non-stop research about the safety of cellphone use while driving. Car and Driver recently noted that texting and driving—was SMS as big in 2002 as it is in 2009?—is less safe than drinking and driving. So maybe the NHSA was right all along.

And, really, what’s wrong with not being able to flap your gums for a couple minutes while you drive to the toy store?