I sent another letter this week to our friends in Washington. This one is to The Honorable Ray LaHood about his distracted driving "summit" to be held September 21st. http://www.edmunds.com/industry-car-news/distracted-driving-summit-letter.html
If the intent is to generate headlines he has scripted the summit well, with safety advocates (isn't that everyone?), researchers and victims all slated to appear.
It is easy to compare distracted driving to seat belt use and assume that mandating (or banning) various activities is the fix.
This would but a win on the safety checklist, but would also be a mistake. After all, there are plenty of examples of "fixes" that sound good but are useless. Think about the seat belt* warning stickers that are plastered all over your vehicles visor. Have you ever read them? A few manufacturers deserve praise for making these stickers--albeit difficult--possible to remove. Most fuse them on in a manner that means removal will destroy the visor.
Or how about the distracted driving warning screen that pops up when you try to use your Bluetooth to make a cell phone call. Finding the enter button to remove the screen is so distracting it could easily cause an accident.
Distracted driving is a nice blameless way to describe a problem that really should be termed irresponsible driving. No responsible driver would eat cereal while commuting to work. Or apply makeup. Or shave. Or read the paper. Or take their eyes of the road to talk with a passenger. Etc, etc. etc.
I am all for discussing this issue. But it needs to be an adult conversation that acknowledges the real benefits of modern technology and looks for real solutions.
* This was a test. They actually are airbag warning labels. Just wanted to see if anyone actually paid them any attention.