Nanny State Moving to Ban All Portable Electronic Use by Automobile Drivers

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Secretary Ray LaHood has been demanding a blanket ban on all cellphone usage by drivers, going so far as to advocate cell phone jammers be built-in to every automobile. Now things are heating up as NHTSA is officially pushing for a ban on all portable electronic usage, with the exception of GPS, while driving:

According to the NHTSA’s latest numbers, 3,092 people died in 2010 as the result of distracted driving, including talking on a cell phone or texting. While that number is down from 2009, when NHTSA reported 5,484 “distraction-related” traffic deaths, the numbers aren’t comparable because of a change in how the agency categorizes accidents. And despite laws in many states banning handheld cellphone use and texting while driving, a driver survey by NHTSA found that nearly half of drivers are still making calls from their phones, and 10 percent are still reading text messages.

Last year I analyzed NHTSA’s numbers and found their claims of cell phone usage increasing the rate of accidents to be entirely false:

Like I said if cell phone usage has been causing automobile accidents it should be noted on the total number of accidents yearly. The data published by the NHTSA goes from 1988 to 2008 which is what we’ll concern ourselves with. So how much have automobile accidents increased? Here’s the funny thing, they haven’t. In fact the number of accidents has been on a slight downward trend since 1988.

In 1988 the total number of automobile accidents was 6,887,000, in 1990 it was 6,471,000, in 1995 it was 6,699,000, in 2000 it was 6,394,000, in 2005 it was 6,159,000, and finally in 2008 it was 5,811,000. It seems the only correlation that exists between the increase in cell phone subscribers and automobile accidents is a slight downward trend (which I’m absolutely not implying is causality).

Inevitably this is where somebody will point out the reason for the downward trend are laws banning cell phone usages while driving. The problem is that isn’t true. From what I’ve been able to find the first law banning cell phone usage while driving was enacted in New York in 2001. The downward trend in automobile accidents has been going on since the late ’80′s at the very least. If the downward trend was occurring before the first law banning cell phone usage while driving was enacted that indicate a third party reason. In fact a recent study confirms exactly what I’m saying.

It’s nice when I’ve written so many posts that I can simply reference previous posts to explain a point. The bottom line is automobile accidents have been on the decline since, at least, the 1980s while the first law banning cell phone usage in automobiles wasn’t passed until 2001 meaning a third factor must be playing into the dropping accident rate. Banning the use of all personal electronics by drivers is nothing but knee-jerk nanny state malarkey. Stupid people do stupid things and passing a law banning the use of portable electronics by drivers isn’t going to fix anything (but will give the state more money in the form of citations and tickets which is probably the real reason behind this push).

If this passes people like myself will no longer even be able to use portable MP3 players to play music in their vehicle. As with most government regulations this one is entirely reactionary to a non-existing problem and has numerous unintended consequences.