Click here to preview the new Fast Company

Want to try out the new

If you’d like to return to the previous design, click the yellow button on the lower left corner.

Transportation Secretary Muses on Idea of Blocking All Cellphones in Cars

Could 5,000 road deaths be avoided each year if the motoring industry were forced to put cellphone-blocking equipment in every car?

According to the U.S. transportation secretary, technology that automatically disables cellphones in cars could become mandatory. Ray LaHood has been publicizing his Faces of Distracted Driving campaign, which aims to make motorists aware of the dangers of using their phones while on the road. "There's a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones and we're looking at that," he told a show on MSNBC earlier this week. With around 5,000 fatal casualties each year due to distracted driving, LaHood has a point. However, is this draconian measure really the way to bring those figures down?

LaHood's proposals suggest introducing scrambling technology inside cars. There are a few problems with the idea — and not just that you won't be able to dial your honey from the road. First, the move would prove remarkably expensive for car manufacturers. Second, it means that every person inside the vehicle would be unable to use their phone. Third, what happens in the case of an emergency? And fourth, how will this affect the GPS features found on many smartphones?

The arrival of new technology is always fraught with tragedy—witness the effect of the John Deere lawnmower on the Limey Draper at Sterling Cooper in series 3 of Mad Men. One wonders what laws might have come out of that incident. Secretaries banned from taking the wheel of miniature tractors? All women, perhaps? Or maybe just the banning of motorized garden implements in Manhattan offices.

One could argue that only by imposing stringent ant-drink driving legislation on the world's population did it force people to think twice before mixing alcohol and petrol. There is, however, a difference. If LaHood's plans for cellphones in cars were transferred to the issue of drink-driving, it would be akin to outlawing the transport of alcohol in a car.

[Image via Moe_'s Flickrstream]

Add New Comment


  • Louann Oravec

    I have been hands free in the car for years. I need my cell phone in the car. We only have one vehicle and I am usually the one transporting everyone, I also get lost when I go someplace new. I need to be able to call usually my husband for directions (looking at a map in the car by myself and being lost is more dangerous than getting directions via my cell phone).. MAKE A LAW TO BE HANDS FREE, NOT ELIMINATE CELL PHONES ALL TOGETHER. And hand out hefty tickets for those who refuse to go hands free. My phone is usually in my pocket, or in my purse where I cannot get to it while driving.

  • Daniel Torres

    Nice article, but I wish the author would have used a real life example of tragedy following technology as opposed to a television show. Would have added a touch more credibility.