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U.S. Govt. Looking To Put Cell Phone Jammers In All Cars

by Sean P. Aune | November 20, 2010

It seems that the United States government has come to the conclusion that laws regarding the use of cell phones while driving aren’t working, so it may be time for it to take that temptation right out of your hands.

Speaking with MSNBC show Morning Joe, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood spoke about the potential of putting cell phone scramblers in cars with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski

Sec. RAY LAHOOD, Secretary of Transportation: Well, look, there’s a lot of technology out there now where they can disable phones, and we’re looking at that. A number of those people came to our distracted driving meeting here in Washington and presented their technology, and that’s one way. But you have to have good laws, you have to have good enforcement. But you have to have people take personal responsibility, that’s the bottom line. If-If you – If you’re texting for four seconds, your car goes the length of a football field – a 5,000 pound car going the length of a football field when you’re not watching out the windshield, and you don’t have both hands on the wheel. The reason we put up this video – these are the faces. We can talk about statistics, but when you hear the heartbreaking stories from people who’ve lost parents or children, you get it. And that’s what we’re really –

[…]

LAHOOD: I think it will be done. I mean, I think the technology is there, and I think you’re going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles —

BRZEZINSKI: I need it at my house.

LAHOOD: – and disable these cell phones –

SCARBOROUGH: I love it.

LAHOOD: We need to – we need to do a lot more, if we’re going to save lives, and so –

BRZEZINSKI: If they make us wear a seat belt, you can make us not use our phone.

driver with cell phoneThere are some immediate questions that arise from this sort of concept, such as what about other people in the car? Would this disable the GPS navigation being built into cell phones now? What about in case of an emergency? While the signal strength would probably be fairly weak, would there be any impact on people who lived close to a major highway? In general would transmissions have problems crossing highways due to what one could refer to as a “jammer cloud” directly above it?

While we fully understand wanting to keep people safe on our roads, and it is estimated that 5,000 deaths a year are caused by cell phone related incidents, there are some definite issues that need to be addressed. Somehow we’re doubting that that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which is responsible for keeping airwaves functioning, is going to just sign off on this concept willy nilly.

I gave my father a call, who in his years as a traveling salesman has logged over 1.8 million miles of driving, to ask his opinion, and he said cell phones aren’t the only problem. “What about these new dashboard units with all of the displays? What about the people mounting video monitors on the dash? Lets go old school and talk about the number of people I have seen doing their make-up while going 60 MPH, or reading and I’ve even seen people shaving while on the interstate.” He went on to add, “Yeah, it’ll probably make us safer, but it’ll be a damned nuisance, and do they really think it’ll take anyone more than a few seconds to figure out a way to disable it?”

And he’s right, people will figure out a way to disable it and we will end up with a couple hundred bucks tacked on to the price of our cars for something we’re all going to figure out how to get around.

The other question, of course, is what will happen with older cars?  Car sales are down, people are holding on to older models for longer, or buying used.  Are we going to be forced to put the tech into our cars?  That won’t go over well.  Will dealerships, which are already in financial trouble, be forced to install the devices in all the used cars on their lots?  Sure, they’ll pass on the cost once you buy the car, but until then it comes out of their pockets.

While I am sure the government has the best of intentions here, they aren’t thinking things through.  We, as a people, are crafty, and we find ways to skirt issues like this.

Oh, and the first time some woman gets chased off a road by an abusive boyfriend or husband that she is fleeing and she couldn’t call for help due to these jammers?  Yeah, hello PR nightmare.

What say you?  Should the government force cell phone jammers into our cars?


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Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...


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