Despite the hype cell phone use while driving is given, traffic fatalities related to distracted driving due to a cell phone are less than 1% of overall US road fatalities. According to a 2012 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving accounted for 9% of all traffic fatalities in the US in 2010. Of that 9%, just 12% involved a cell phone distraction.
Not to trivialize any human death, but we’re talking about 341 traffic deaths due to cell phone distraction for the entire country in one year. To put that into perspective, 450 people die in the US from falling out of bed every year.
But the feds have decided that cell phone use in vehicles is a crisis, and now they want regulations requiring that cell phones in vehicles be disabled while the vehicle is moving:
Nathaniel Beuse, associate administrator for vehicle safety research at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, says government regulation coupled with standards set by automakers and the electronics industry could reduce fatalities. He says we need “a technological solution, some sort of innovation” in which the device or the car would recognize when the driver is using a mobile device and deactivate it.
“This would be the ultimate solution,” he says.
Federal regulators want to make it impossible for you to send a text, update Facebook or surf Instagram while driving, a campaign that could have as big an impact on mobile phone manufacturers as automakers. This spring, the NHTSA and its parents at the Department of Transportation laid out — in a 281-page report (.pdf) — several guidelines for accomplishing this.
One can imagine all manner of problems. What about using the phone in an emergency? What about passenger use? What about the army of hackers out there who would no doubt figure out a way to thwart any technological impediments to using a cell phone in a moving car?
Not to mention the nightmare that would be enforcement. Government-mandated technology that disables your cell phone under certain conditions? What’s the worst that could happen?
In the states/cities that have banned texting while driving, if there has been any measurable change in traffic fatalities due to distracted driving it has been an increase. Why do we think that this problem is something that can be solved with public policy?