On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board, a federal agency, called for states to put an a ban on all cell phone use in automobiles. Although several states currently have forbidden the explicit use of headsets while driving, none currently have a universal prohibition on cell phone use.
According to Deborah Hersman, chairman of the NTSB, drivers are still distracted regardless of whether or not they have an actual device in their hands. She does not believe that handsfree or integrated systems are the solution to the problem. By her standards, the use of cellular devices–handsfree or otherwise–impairs individuals just as much as drunken driving or driving while smoking. However, she and State Senator Joe Simitian of California, another supporter of the ban, agree that the restriction will probably not be passed in any state during their lifetimes. Currently, the NTSB’s message only serves as a call to action; the organization is simply encouraging states to enact such a ban. The states are still free to act however they please.
As much (or as little, as mean) as I use my phone (in a safe manner, of course) while driving, I am in total support for such a ban. In my opinion, it is very clear that talking or texting while driving can be extremely distracting and can lead to possible accident or injury. In a perfect world, I would have had congress pass the ban as federal law. While general public opinion would be probably be very much against such a measure–a fact that the NTSB acknowledged in the NY Times article–I think that it would have been in the best interest of the people.
Such a law would align with the principles of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. According to Rousseau in his work, The Basic Political Writings, mankind originally found itself in a state of nature that it could not maintain. In order to escape from this state of nature and preserve themselves, individuals entered into a “social compact” with one another to form a governing entity that can maintain their welfare. However, citizens must give up some of their rights if they wish to maintain this social contract. The NTSB views on individual and societal welfare align with Rousseau’s principles. While we probably wouldn’t be very happy with a ban on cell phone use while driving, the NTSB believes that we would all stand to gain on an individual and collective level from the safer driving conditions that would come as a result. With the institution of such a ban, less accidents and fatalities would likely occur, making roads safer for everyone. Even though some of us may consider the cell phone use an inalienable right, we would each stand to gain if it were sacrificed.
Just as an illustration, below is an infographic explaining some of the effects of cell phone use while driving (click on the image in order to view a higher resolution file).