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Executive Order Bars Federal Workers From Texting and Driving 236

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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  • Maybe it's a start (Score:1, Insightful)

    by MarkOnBoat ( 900698 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:16AM (#29615379) Homepage
    And the next executive order will ban ALL kinds of stupidity by government workers... no, wait - isn't stupid a forever thing?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:23AM (#29615423)

    In this case, the Executive Order applies to employees of the Federal Government. That sounds like an employer taking responsibility by stating company policy for employees when they are driving employer-owned vehicles. When those same people are driving their own cars on their own time they are still free to be fucking morons and kill themselves.

  • by salmacis2 ( 643788 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:27AM (#29615439)
    What? Texting and driving isn't already illegal in the USA? It's illegal in the UK, and quite right too. A car is a lethal weapon if you are not paying attention - and it's impossible to compose a text message while simultaneously maintain the necessary level of attention to driving.
  • 'bout time (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:28AM (#29615447) Homepage

    Now the more interesting question is how you enforce this.

    For starters, I think they're going to have to punish managers who want their people available 24x7x365. If you ban cell phone use and texting by federal employees while driving, and the federal employees in question are driving home, you're just going to have to wait. Which shouldn't be a problem - if it is a real problem then you haven't properly trained backup personnel to cover for the guy who's driving home, which means that if he slams into a tree due to texting you're all going to be in much bigger trouble.

    This came up in a discussion on another site, and a doctor pointed out "If I can get to the side of the road and stop to handle what could easily be a life-or-death emergency, you can get to the side of the road and stop to handle whatever you're dealing with."

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

    by jandersen ( 462034 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:29AM (#29615453)

    The last time I looked in a dictionary, "or" was no closer to "while" than "and".

    Perhaps you need another dictionary, or maybe you should look more carefully. According to Wiktionary:

    While and whilst are conjunctions whose primary meaning is "during the time that"

    IOW, it means (or implies) "at the same time as"; thus, "I text while I am driving" means "I text and drive at the same time". To most users of the English language, the sentence "I text or drive at the same time" doesn't make much meaning. Ergo, "while" has a good deal to do with "and", and not so much with "or"; some would even say that they are functionally equivalent.

  • Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ( 45841 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:32AM (#29615467) Homepage
    I find it absolutely amazing that you have to have the president of the United States tell adults that texting while driving is a bad idea. It's bad enough that even in the small city where I live every day is another near crash with some jackass with their effing phone glued to their ear, blithely unaware of their surroundings.

    I wish it were just teenagers, but these are adults who should know better. If you get in your car, turn the bitch off. Full stop. What really gets me is the douche bags who rationalize what they're doing because, "it's just for a couple of seconds," or, "I'm good at multitasking." Sure, whatever, you bet. Learn how to use your damn voice mail because nothing is that important.

  • by BESTouff ( 531293 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:44AM (#29615535)
    Interestingly North American people are genetically unable to thank their governement for anything it does or decides. If it comes from the governement, it must be a trap, mean or just plain wrong.

    Wake up guys. Your governement is yours, you elected it. Consistently criticizing its actions is childish at best.

  • by c ( 8461 ) <> on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:50AM (#29615575)

    > Personally, I think it is sad that we even need to ban it.

    That's the really silly part... we don't need to ban it. Just about any sane jurisdiction that allows driving already has laws against various forms of reckless or distracted driving. Before cell phones, our parents and grandparents were dealing with people driving while shaving, reading newspapers, having sex (partner optional), applying makeup, eating, beating the kids, etc. This stuff isn't new, and if we aren't enforcing the laws already on the books, creating a new law isn't going to do a damn thing except (maybe) raise awareness of the issue.


  • by Sebilrazen ( 870600 ) <> on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:51AM (#29615597)
    Don't forget the US is still a young country, we think 517 years ago history began. Nobody did anything before Christopher Columbus ended up in this hemisphere. So in response to your claims of childishness, all I have to say is: I know you are, but what am I?
  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) * on Friday October 02, 2009 @08:53AM (#29615601) Homepage Journal

    Dude - I voted for Obama. If Obama did EVERYTHING just like I want him to do, AND, he brought me breakfast in bed, did my laundry, fixed my car, and maintenanced my house, and gave me his salary for the privilege of serving me, I would STILL BITCH!! It's an American's right to bitch, even when everything is going better than right.

    Wait - you didn't go to boot camp, did you? You would have learned, "A bitching sailor is a happy sailor." No one worries about what the troops have to say, until they quit saying anything. When they quit bitching, THEN YOU NEED TO WORRY!

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:27AM (#29615873) Journal

    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.

    Do you have a citation for that? The study I saw showed that using a hands free kit had the same effect on your reaction time, which is not the same thing. Someone with one hand on their phone has a greater response time for anything that they need to do with that hand and someone holding the phone with their shoulder has reduced visibility (because they can't turn their head so much). Neither of these was addressed by the study.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:28AM (#29615881)

    And me...

  • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:29AM (#29615885) Homepage Journal

    You can't ban stupidity, but you can ban stupid actions.

  • by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:31AM (#29615901)

    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.

    The real question is, how do you send text messages with a hands-free kit?

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

    by schwanerhill ( 135840 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:39AM (#29615989)

    I don't know why a mobile is worse, perhaps it's a pavlov dog thing since when you have a phone to your ear you are normally trying to block out your surroundings.

    I suspect a big part of it is that passengers are present and can see what's going on on the road.

    When there's traffic that needs attention and I, as the driver, get distracted from the conversation I'm having with my passenger, the passenger understands why I'm distracted from the conversation without the need for me to explain why. When talking on the phone, it takes both more time and more mental effort on my part to explain what's going on to the person I'm talking to. ("Sorry, I'm concentrating on switching lanes now, so I'm not listening to what you're saying".) In practice, when on the phone, the driver is more likely to just keep full attention on the conversation.

    That's not to say that having an involved conversation with a passenger can't be dangerous, just less so.

  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @09:43AM (#29616035)

    That's the really silly part... we don't need to ban it. Just about any sane jurisdiction that allows driving already has laws against various forms of reckless or distracted driving.

    I'm so sick of people making this argument every time this topic comes up. To penalize texting while driving under the current law, you would have to haul each offender into court, and each and every time try to prove to a jury that texting is indeed distracted driving. Huge amounts of resources would be wasted doing this over and over again. Each time it would be fought tooth-and-nail by slick and clever defense lawyers who would bring in all sorts of pseudo statistics to try raise doubts that texting while driving has been 100% air-tight proven to be dangerous. Remember how they convinced a jury that OJ wasn't guilty?

    A specific law would point out that texting while driving == distracted driving, no ifs, ands or buts. This fact would not have to be re-proven in every case. Pay the ticket, move on, and don't do it again.

  • by noidentity ( 188756 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:01AM (#29616257)

    That sounds like an employer taking responsibility by stating company policy for employees when they are driving employer-owned vehicles. When those same people are driving their own cars on their own time they are still free to be fucking morons and kill themselves.

    And kill others. Which is why this is kind of odd, since it's not just the vehicle that's put at risk.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:09AM (#29616361) Homepage Journal

    All states ban driving in an unsafe manner. States with "driving while distracted" laws are on the way to the same stupid proliferation of laws that leads to "no texting" laws. If someone can drive so well and hold their phone against the wheel such that you can't tell they're texting, you don't need to stop them. Otherwise, it's pretty much always obvious; the guy who is driving like he's got lag needs to be checked out. If it turns out he was on his phone at the time, he should be given a ticket, not for using his phone while driving, but for unsafe driving.

    The reason we do have these laws is to get these people through the court system faster, of course. It eliminates all arguments about whether one was driving safely or not. I should think it would be enough to rely on precedent, but I guess not.

    Further proof that more courts, more judges, more laws, more jails, and more prisons will not solve what is really wrong with this country.

  • by torkus ( 1133985 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @10:42AM (#29616709)

    Apparently a 'driving-while-texting' is a forever thing. "...prohibited from getting a job as a school buss driver if they have been convicted..."

    Now, I understand it's not safe. And I fully agree that buss drivers, train conductors, etc. should not intentionally distract themselves for something trivial while working as it could endanger others. But why do we keep passing laws that perpetuate someone's status as a criminal? After the 'punishment', be it financial or penal, hasn't someone paid their 'debt to society' and been rehabilitated? Isn't the (claimed) point of laws and punishments to deter people from committing the crimes? I disagree with the perpetual sex-offender registration, but at least they're the result of a crime with an actual, identifiable victim. Of course, when offenders are forced to live in a tent city because they can't legally live anywhere else it's rather hard to imagine what motivation they have to follow the law.

    What's next, you get branded for speeding in a work zone? Non-removable tracking bracelet for being late to too many meetings? At the rate we're going *everyone* will be a criminal in perpetual rehabilitation before too long.

  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:07AM (#29616999) Homepage Journal
    While I applaud the moves to try to get rid of texting, and to a lesser extent, cell phone conversations while driving, I do have a couple of questions.

    This is on the federal level...exactly what power do they have over a state issuing drivers licenses to school bus drivers?

    Do interstate commercial drivers, have to get some kind of federal license in addition to their state license? If not, again, what the hell power does the Federal govt. have to 'regulate' who gets a license in a state? Isn't this still a state power?

    Oh sure, I know the Federal Govt. can do the usual to blackmail the states into submission by withholding federal monies, but, that's a different argument.

    My other question is...exactly what legal binding power is given to a Presidental Executive Order? I admit, I'm not a Constitutional scholar, and am really coming in late on the civics lessons, but, where in the constitution can this Executive Order by justified and what are its powers? I thought with my rudimentary knowledge, that ONLY congress could make laws, and the president could pretty much ONLY sign them or veto them?

  • by pixelpusher220 ( 529617 ) on Friday October 02, 2009 @11:28AM (#29617317)
    Lots of precedent for EO's but not a really explicit definition of their force and justification.

    linky []

    Basically the President is saying, if you work for the Federal Gov't you now have to abide by this rule. It's not a law, but then my employer telling me I can't wear jeans to work isn't a law either.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 02, 2009 @04:24PM (#29620871)

    Lots of police (Most/All?) use MDT's of some kind- in my town they have full fledged laptops mounted on a moveable arm from the passenger side. Now I realize local police aren't federal employees, but the FBI, DEA, and other federal law enforcement must have similar setups. So, define texting- have they just outlawed their law enforcement from doing their jobs?

The only perfect science is hind-sight.