Nationwide Study: Drivers O.K. With Cell Phone Ban

New technologies may spring up to help drivers who support a cell-phone ban but still want to pick up the phone

Three Questions:

A) Did you know that people who text while driving are 23 times as likely to get into a crash? (I thought it was more dangerous than that.) B) Would you be in favor of laws regulating cell phone calling and texting while driving? C) If you just had to make a call or send a message while driving, would you get really mad if you got busted?

I talked last week with Bill Windsor, Nationwide Insurance’s VP for safety. He was telling me about a new survey indicating that majorities of Americans, both young and old, favor bans.

Seems to me that a lot of people approve all kinds of painful measures—until they really need to make a cell phone call, or think they need to drive after the third glass of scotch, etc. Of course, maybe the level of their sincerity doesn’t make much difference: If they say they support measures, laws will likely be enacted.

These could well open the doors for new technologies. As a society, it’s hard to demand that people stay in touch 24/7, as we do, and at the same time outlaw communication for hours a day. Even the airlines, the last off-the-grid bastion, are wavering, first with the introduction of WiFi into the cabin, and most recently with cell calls on AeroMexico. So we may soon see systems, Windsor says, that automatically respond to phone calls and texts with messages that the driver is busy, and will respond ASAP.

That one sounds pretty easy to me, but not good enough for those who believe they cannot afford to be unreachable. What I’d like is voice recognition texts. That way, I could just turn down the radio and bellow out short text messages. Yes, it would be more dangerous than abstaining. But it would not be time constrained. Drivers could wait until they’re off the hazardous entry ramp. The goal, after all, is not to eliminate risk, which is impossible, but to keep it down a bit.

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