Kicking the habit: Why a blanket cell-phone ban won’t work
As if hearing the plethora of truck drivers’ objections to the prohibitions on handheld cell use in-cab while driving, minus any similar prohibition for the motoring public and given the wide problem of motorist distraction on the highways, the National Transportation Safety Board formally recommended that all personal electronic devices be banned from use while driving by everyone in all 50 states and D.C. (except in emergency situations and unless they aid the driving task).
All the same, truck drivers’ reactions to this news was perhaps appropriately cynical, judging by some of the comments we’ve seen on our Facebook page. Bethany from the One Girl Trucking site noted for instance that “while I think it is great they are ‘thinking’ of going after ALL drivers, I think correctly training drivers from the start would be a great step in the right direction. If they are going to take cell phones out of vehicles they had better make laws against eating & driving, watching TV & entertaining kids while driving, blowing your nose, sneezing and everything in between. It would just be easier to ban stupidity while driving.”
The folks with Zoomsafer, maker of systems/software for fleets to mitigate against phone use in vehicles that are in motion, published a commentary on the problem of enforcement yesterday, too. They pitched their technological solution as a potentially effective enforcement mechanism on an individual basis, but along the way noted these problems: 1) “Bans alone don’t work” (and in some instances may be a detriment to safety as drivers try to use the phone surreptitiously, misplacing attention). 2) “Bans are difficult and expensive to enforce.” 3) “Ignoring bans is easy for drivers to rationalize,” particularly given the American public’s virtual addiction, at this point, to mobile phones.
Read Zoomsafer’s full post here, where the company takes the addiction metaphor further, speaking of their technology in language reminiscent of an ad for, say, nicotine replacement therapy. (You’ll recall my post about Marsh Carroll’s humorous vid for the company, which also tracks in similar metaphors.)
The likelihood of a nationwide phone-use ban happening thus seems slim to none, particularly given that the states would have to adopt measures individually to create such a ban, and none have one in place at present (a good portion of states still haven’t outlawed texting behind the wheel, for that matter); at the least, the NTSB recommendation puts the distracted-driving problem in the national spotlight, where it will gain prominence in the public mind.
And as any smoker who’s tried one of those nicotine-replacement strategies to quit smoking knows, they’re only effective for someone who really wants to break the habit. No single external measure is incentive enough. What it takes is the inner will to stop.