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Wireless vs. Brainless

Wireless vs. Brainless

The National Transportation Safety Board wants to ban ALL use of phones in cars, even hands-free phones, except in the case of emergencies. (The NTSB has no enforcement power, but does have an influence on Congress.)

Can someone tell me how a hands-free phone is more distracting and more dangerous than:

• Fooling with the radio and finding different channels.

• Using an iPod for music in the car and finding the right playback.

• Talking to passengers in the car.

• Using GPS while underway.

• Trying to follow written instructions.

• Glancing at notes and reminders in those dashboard holders.

• Drinking hot coffee.

• Eating.

• Applying makeup.

• Daydreaming.

In today’s Wall Street Journal there is an article about how complicated and hard to use certain dashboard music systems can be.

I’m all for safety on the roadways, but I tend to become allergic to overwrought attempts to legislate every part of our lives (there are bills in several states that would prohibit smoking in your own car; and according to several car seat rules concerning weight and size, some petite women would have to go to their college proms or weddings in a child seat).

Dialing a phone and sending text messages while driving is insane, dangerous, and shouldn’t be condoned. Driving without a seat belt creates a greater chance of serious injury and expense in medical costs and insurance. These are legitimate and specific concerns.

But if you intend to try to legislate to the point of absolute perceived 100 percent safety, then you need to arrest every woman putting on mascara and lipstick; anyone with a drink rising from cup holder to lips; those changing their GPS views or looking at the map; and anyone seen glancing at a passenger in the course of conversation.

You can educate people to be careful, but there comes a point where attempting to legislate it clearly abrogates personal freedom. (A police cruiser, ostensibly driven by a careful, experienced, knowledgeable officer was shown on the news last night being towed off a telephone pole which the officer had driven up vertically while his attention was “distracted.”)

The tentative person pulling onto a highway at 25 MPH and not increasing speed immediately, the person rolling through the stop sign, the person not signaling the lane change—they are more dangerous than someone talking on a hands-free phone and, one would think, they ARE paying close attention.

Some people die of peanut allergies. The answer is not to ban peanuts from the marketplace. Some people die in plane crashes. The answer is not to ban flying. We know people die from tobacco, but we’ve yet to abolish its sale.

Careless people will cause accidents. We need to educate them, take them off the road if blatant or repeated. But we need to heed Peter Drucker, who said, “…and laws that result from a ‘scandal’ are invariably bad laws. They punish ninety-nine innocents to foil one miscreant. They penalize good practice, yet rarely prevent malpractice. They express emotion rather than reason.”

Maybe we should remove all those distracting advertising billboards, and clear all the trees and vegetation that cause the eye to wander, especially in the fall when trees turn color. Where does it end?

It ends when people are educated and expected to use good judgment, not when the government acts like a parent trying to control unruly kids. If the government wants to act like a parent, then clean up the tax code. That would be a welcome start. But stay out of my car.

© Alan Weiss 2011. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

Comments: 2

  • December 17, 2011

    Agree completely. There’s talk that the insurance industry is behind this and wants to deny claims if someone who is speaking on their phone causes an accident. Knowing that our legislators can’t do anything without the “assistance” of a lobbyist, this just might be the underlying motivation. There’s a “hands-free” law here in California. We aren’t even supposed to be touching our phones while driving. The law is quite ineffective.

  • Alan Weiss

    December 17, 2011

    How would you know that someone isn’t or is on a hands free phone? It’s not even easy to tell if they’re wearing a seat belt. What about people with all that garbage dangling from the rear view mirror?

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