Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood disagreed with a proposal by National Transportation Safety Board that calls for a ban on hands-free calling while driving. In a public split, he explained that the focus should be on hand-held cell calls and texting, but not on fast-growing new technology that enables drivers to talk while keeping their hands on the wheel. LaHood has made distracted driving as his signature safety issue.
LaHood further argued that engaging in hands-free calls while driving is not "the big problem" in America, adding that most people do not install Sync or Bluetooth in their vehicles because "they can't afford it." He also narrated that everyone has a mobile phone in their and it is held up to their ears while driving.
The proposal was issued last week by the Board's Chairman Deborah Hersman for states to forbid cell use while driving, including hands-free devices unless during emergencies. The utilization of driver assist programs like General Motors Co's OnStar would still be permitted. Although the board has no rule-making authority, its recommendations can still carry weight with regulators and lawmakers. Safety experts state that any blanket ban was not likely because it would be hard to implement.
LaHood has engaged in talks with auto company executives regarding hands-free technology. He has never asked them to stop fitting the technology in the automobiles. He said that their efforts are "good laws and good enforcement," adding that they will cooperate with anyone who wants to "get on board."
In 2010, distracted driving killed at least 3,000 people in the United States, according to the figures from the Transportation Department. [source: Autonews]