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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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  • by Svartalf (2997) on Friday October 02, 2009 @07:37AM (#29615495) Homepage

    Texting probably is- I'd think it was covered under reckless driving statutes.

    You'd think it was a foregone conclusion, really, that this was a BAD thing to do- but people do it right along with the trying to drive whilst the phone's up to the head. But noooo....

  • by Jason Levine (196982) on Friday October 02, 2009 @07:38AM (#29615497)

    It's illegal where I live (New York) even though I've seen people obviously texting while they're driving. Many states, though, are having problems passing bans because some people think it is a "personal rights" issue. They fail to realize, however, that while you might have the right to take a chance with your life due to texting while driving, you don't have the right to take chances with other people's rights. If you cross the center line and plow into another car head on because you just *had* to reply to your friend's incoming text message, you could wind up killing people other than yourself. (There was a story on NPR where this exact thing happened. The twenty year old who was texting killed a parent and child and he survived.)

    Personally, I think it is sad that we even need to ban it. It should be a common sense thing that you shouldn't be looking at your phone to compose a text while you're driving. If you really need to text, pull over, send the text, then start back up. If you really need to talk with the person, get a hands-free set and call them. (Yes, being engaged in a phone conversation is still distracting, but it is less distracting than looking away from the road for a few seconds to type and send a text message.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 02, 2009 @07:41AM (#29615517)
    I have heard that laws against texting / talking on the phone / whatever while driving do not actually cause there to be less accidents. People will continue to do so. However, the only thing that does change is the amount of revenue generated from traffic violations.

    My ideal system for dealing with texting / drinking / $distraction while driving would go like this: Once you've hit someone while being distracted or intoxicated, they get you not only for whatever injuries and damages you do, but also get you for criminal negligence. Otherwise, consider yourself very very lucky that you haven't hurt or killed someone or damaged something. Bonus points if the cops pull you over while you're intoxicated and hold you until you are no longer intoxicated.
  • Re:'bout time (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Firemouth (1360899) on Friday October 02, 2009 @07:47AM (#29615553)
    It doesn't matter. If you're distracted, the method of the distraction doesn't matter. If they're calling you, odds are its not a "ok is the computer plugged in?". The call is probably going to require some kind of thought, which means your brain isn't focusing on the dynamic traffic conditions. If someone slams on their brakes in front of you, and you're distracted, there's a good chance you won't see them braking before its too late. I say "distracted" not "on the phone" because there have always been other methods of distraction that I think are equally as bad. I think cell phones are getting the limelight because the frequency of their usage is significantly higher than any other distraction out there. Kids not behaving, something rolling around you're trying to grab, eating a big mac, doing your makeup, shaving, etc. All of those happen and cause distractions which can and have caused accidents.
  • by gizmonic (302697) * on Friday October 02, 2009 @07:50AM (#29615587) Homepage

    Car and Driver published a study in which they compared reading and writing text messages with drunk driving. They only tested reaction times, not vehicle control. But, in general, reading and writing texts led to worse reaction times than being intoxicated. Decent and short read.

    http://tinyurl.com/candtextingwhiledriving [tinyurl.com]

    As another posted mentioned though, enforcement will be the real issue. Sounds like it will be more post crash cell phone log analysis to see if you were texting than anything they can pull you over for. Because unless you're doing it in a very obvious manner, there's no real way to tell you're doing it until you crash.

  • over-specificity (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Sloppy (14984) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:00AM (#29616925) Homepage Journal

    disqualify school bus drivers from receiving commercial driver's licenses if they have been convicted of texting while driving

    Why not just ban commercial license to people convicted of Careless Driving? What is so special about texting?

    This reminds me of the kind of bullshit, where convicted "sex offenders" after they get out of jail, have special tracking restrictions (must register, wear a GPS anklet, whatever) -- but murderers and thieves don't. You can look at such a policy as being pro-protect-thing-children-from-rapists (who could be against that?), but you can also look at it as pro-murder-and-theft.

    Uniform fairness washes this kind of bullshit. If you deny commercial licenses to texting drivers but still give licenses to people who drove while masterbating, watching TV, turning around to shout at the kids in the back seat, etc. then you're pro-driving-while-masterbating. Ok, not really but do you see the problem?

    Singling out texting-while-driving is as stupid as outlawing crack while still allowing people to drink Drain-O. There are so many ways to fuck up and you'll never enumerate them all, so just cover the general case, dammit. The most this kind of crap can do, is create loopholes: show me the order's definition of "texting" and I'll put on my rules-lawyer-D&D-player cap and show you a way to pervert it and get around it, while doing something horrifically unsafe.

  • waste of time (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:59AM (#29618547)

    Banning texting while driving is like pointing out that everyone is a moron and needs to be treated like one. This is just a waste of money and time in my opinion. Instead of a making a general law about being distracted while driving which probably already is a law in some states you have to waste an entire law to stop people from doing something very specific. So basically I can still read a book, eat a salad and shave while driving but it's a crime to text? If you run over someone while texting that has already been established as a crime long ago and it's called manslaughter in most states. Should it now be illegal to walk around with untied shoes because you may trip and die?

    My theory for the actual reason for this law is because they can more easily fine people for getting into accidents which are typically not criminal issues. And they can actually prove that you were texting after the fact if you had sent a message prior to the crash. Making texting while driving a crime will do very little to prevent it from happening and will only create revenue for the state with the fines. How about working on the more abundant crimes before you try to save a dozen people with a mulimillion dollar law.

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