Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood has decided that American adults can't be trusted to drive safely unless he tells us how. That means no more talking on the cell phone while tooling down the road.
And soon it will also mean no bluetooth or other hands-free cell phone if the former Illinois RINO congressman gets his way, according to Bloomberg News:
“'I don’t want people talking on phones, having them up to their ear or texting while they’re driving,' LaHood said in an interview this week. 'We need a lot better research on other distractions,' including Bluetooth-enabled hands-free calls and the in-car systems, he said.”
The Heritage Foundation's Brian Darling notes in a RedState.com post today that LaHood is seeking to pressure state governments to enact new anti-distracted driving laws designed to stop drivers from using cell phones on the road, a move that clearly represents yet another example of federal over-reach.
“Distracted driving is a problem, yet it is not the role of the federal government to force states to implement unreasonable and over broad laws,” Darling said. “States should pass reasonable measures if they want to reduce distracted driving. It seems to be over the pale for the federal government to ban hands-free conversations. Federalism dictates that States should be the final decision makers on this issue and sanity dictates that any new laws should be fair to drivers.”
For more from Darling on this issue, go here.
In the meantime, while I agree with Darling, the odds are great that LaHood will succeed in forcing the states to act on his preference. We are in the midst of yet another of the periodic highway safety crazes that afflict the country when politicians like LaHood and federal transportation bureaucrats discover a new tool for imposing their superior wisdom on the rest of us.
It happened before with Richard Nixon's 55 mph national speed limt. And there was former NHTSA Administrator Joan Claybrook's obsession with imposing air bags into mass use before they were ready. There have been other examples, but now it's the distracted driving issue.
Well, if it's LaHood's perogative to tell the rest of us what constitutes a dangerous driving distraction, why should he stop with cell phones? There are many more driving distractions that LaHood must address if he is truly serious about making American roads safer.
Take for example that lethal device known as an “AM/FM Stereo,” usually found in the center console of the vehicle. The problems with this device only begin with the fact that it makes drivers take their eyes off the road ahead in order to manipulate the channel selector, volume control, and a bunch of other buttons, dials, and sliders.
Oh no, the most distracting thing about that AM/FM Stereo found in virtually every car on the road is that it provides pleasurable entertainment that by definition encourages drivers to think about the Black-Eyed Peas' newest hit song, a Golden Oldie from the Beatles, or a thousand other tunes.
Even worse, the AM/FM Stereo can be tuned to all-news stations like Washington's WTOP, which encourages drivers to do distracting things like vote for the dumbest criminal of the week, listen to call-in jockeys pronounce on every possible inane topic in the world, and re-program their GPS units to plot a new commuting route to get around that six-car pileup ahead.
As bad as AM/FM Stereo units are, the satellite radio services are even worse because they allow drivers to select from hundreds of options, including everything from Howard Stern's obscene schtick to the latest hits from Christian recording artists.
And God forbid that a driver be able to hook an iPOD or other MP3-type device into the vehicle's AM/FM Stereo. Then the driver is further distracted by manipulating the slippery little iPOD and finding just the right artist and album from among the hundreds he or she has downloaded.
Obviously, all of these car stereos are dangerous distractions that LaHood will decree illegal as soon as possible.
After LaHood is finished stopping drivers from being distracted by music, news, and traffic reports, he can next go after all those distracting roadside advertising signs. And we're not just talking about those ugly billboards beside the interstate.
How can anybody be expected to concentrate on their driving when businesses insist on erecting colorful, informative signs that not only describe their services, but even invite drivers to turn around and go back because they just drove past the sale of the century.
Clearly, all advertising that can be seen from the road has got to go in order to stop the holocaust of blood caused on America's highways by distracted drivers.
But wait, there's an even more dangerous distraction that LaHood absolutely must stop if he is really serious about making our roads safer. I am referring to that most distracting of all distractions, other people in the car, especially children.
Leave it to a spouse to insist on discussing the family finances, the results of Aunt Martha's latest colonoscopy, or even whether Rover is due for his latest worm treatment.
Worst of all are those kids in the back seat. No matter what you tell them, they are constantly chattering, throwing things, spilling drinks, choking on food or each other, or a thousand other things, all designed to get the attention of the adults in the front seat, especially the driver.
How in good conscience can LaHood do anything but decree that no driver may be accompanied by any other human being in the vehicle while said vehicle is in motion? Until nobody drives with anybody, our streets will continue to be death traps for the distracted.
Or could it be that distracted driving isn't really the issue for those demanding new laws. Maybe this latest craze is merely another way they are trying to make driving cars as miserable and inconvenient as possible. Because after all, the private automobile is the greatest tool ever invented for making individual autonomy possible.
And we can't have that in the era of Hope and Change.