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Executive Order Bars Federal Workers From Texting and Driving 236

Posted by timothy
from the also-walking-chewing-gum-and-surgery dept.
CWmike writes "A two-day Distracted Driving Summit in Washington concluded Thursday, after experts raised multiple thorny questions on how to reduce cell phone and texting while driving, with a big emphasis placed on driver and employer responsibility. But that was not before President Obama signed an executive order that tells all federal employees not to engage in texting while driving government vehicles. [US Transportation Secretary Ray] LaHood also announced that his department would ban text messaging altogether and restrict cell phone use by truck and interstate bus drivers, and disqualify school bus drivers from receiving commercial driver's licenses if they have been convicted of texting while driving. His department also plans to make permanent some restrictions placed on the use of cell phones in rail operations, he added without offering further details. The executive order 'shows the federal government is leading by example' and 'sends a signal that distracted driving is dangerous,' LaHood said."
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Obama Bars Federal Workers From Texting and Driving

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  • Re:Lame headline? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sique (173459) on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:33AM (#29615471) Homepage

    Because the conjunction A v B is only true when A and B both are true, while A ^ B is true if at least one of A and B is true.

    So it is forbidden now to do both A and B at the same time, while Texting itself and Driving itself are still allowed. Thus only (A v B) is forbidden, but (A ^ B) is still allowed if (not A B).

  • Re:'bout time (Score:3, Informative)

    by characterZer0 (138196) on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:45AM (#29615537)

    Using a hands-free is only slightly less dangerous than holding a phone to your head.

    The problem is no so much the occupied hand as the distracted brain.

  • Re:'bout time (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:54AM (#29615609)
    I think it would be simpler to just not give the employees access to government vehicles. Make them drive their own vehicle. Problem solved. No more texting while driving a government vehicle.
  • Re:Insider's view (Score:4, Informative)

    by ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:59AM (#29615635)
    They've done numerous [sciencedaily.com] studies [foxnews.com] that say you're wrong. Holding the phone is an additional distraction, but there is still a significant difference between talking on a cell (hands free or otherwise) and talking to a passenger. For one, your passenger can say "watch out!" if you lose focus and start to drift; your phone cannot. For another, people need to focus more on phone calls; the fidelity isn't as good on either end so they need to focus on hearing and being heard more than in an in person conversation. You know all those people who talk 20 decibels louder than normal on a cell, even though no recent cell phone benefits significantly from the additional volume? They've focused on the call (and being heard) so much that they forget to self-regulate. If they can't regulate the volume of their voice (a task related to the conversation), why do you think they'll be able to drive effectively?
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:01AM (#29615647)

    It's illegal in the UK, and quite right too.

    Well, saying it's illegal is reasonable enough, but one could argue that it should be covered by general laws about driving without paying proper attention.

    The problem with making a specific law against using hand-held phones is that it led to a wave of advertising about how you should buy a hands-free kit to stay safe while you're driving. Some large advertising used literally those words.

    Unfortunately, statistically, using a hands-free kit is almost as dangerous as using a handheld kit, and the new law was used by advertisers to condone it.

    Final note to those who are about to reply and say that I'm wrong and you're much safer using a hands-free kit: please spare us. You are wrong, and the evidence is overwhelming. For a start, the same data that the British government used to justify the law banning handheld phones would support a ban on hands-free kit as well. Google is your friend. Please let's not have another ill-informed "I am a better driver than you" subthread. Thank you.

  • Re:Lame headline? (Score:3, Informative)

    by FlyingBishop (1293238) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:01AM (#29615653)

    Um... Ok I'll bite... I think you have the symbols for "and" and "or" backwards [wikipedia.org]

    But other than that, you are quite right.

  • Re:Lame headline? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:04AM (#29615677)

    "Texting and driving" is an analogy to "drinking and driving", which does not mean "drinking while driving" but driving under the influence of alcohol intoxication (which is long enough to justify the less precise expression "drinking and driving"). Barring federal workers from texting and driving can be interpreted as barring federal workers from texting and barring federal workers from driving. If the author had meant to express that federal workers are barred from texting while driving, why didn't he write that?

  • by corbettw (214229) <corbettwNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:20AM (#29615803) Journal

    Actually, it turns out that's not the case. I thought it was too, until a recent Slashdot discussion where someone corrected me. I've since done a little more research and found this chart published by the AAA: http://www.aaapublicaffairs.com/Assets/Files/20099111616410.DistractedDrivingLaws.doc [aaapublicaffairs.com] (warning: Word doc, not HTML or PDF for some reason).

    Only four states ban "distracted driving", and various other combinations of states ban texting, talking on a phone, or other specific actions. There are only two states (Ohio and Wisconsin) that don't ban any of these behaviors. As for the rest, it's a hodgepodge of restrictions. It's worth checking out the link to make sure you know what your state does, and does not, ban.

  • by schwanerhill (135840) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:27AM (#29615875)

    Re "Just federal employees": The president can ban federal employees from texting while driving for work (or having cream in their coffee while on the job, for that matter, if he so chose) by an executive order. Banning all drivers from texting would take an act of a legislature, and this sort of thing is typically done by state law, not federal law. Congress can effectively force states to enact highway laws like this by withholding federal highway funds.

    Congress may get there soon, but it takes more time.

  • by psm321 (450181) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:42AM (#29616027) Journal

    This. The pundits like to say that public opinion of the president and congress is falling because they are pushing for these reforms. The fact is, it's falling because they _aren't_ pushing for the reforms that the people put them into power for, and in fact doing the exact opposite in some cases (Obama supporting extraordinary rendition, etc)

  • Re:Really? (Score:3, Informative)

    by schwanerhill (135840) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:44AM (#29616063)

    Learn how to use your damn voice mail because nothing is that important.

    And if it is that damn important, pull over to the side of the road.

    On a serious note, this order really does have some practical benefit because if a federal employee has something that is important enough that it has to be dealt with while driving, the employee can pull over, make the phone call, and the employee's boss will have no justification to complain about the employee being 5 minutes late for whatever appointment s/he was driving to. If the boss complains, the employee has a written policy to cite.

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