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Executive Order Bars Federal Workers From Texting and Driving

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the also-walking-chewing-gum-and-surgery dept.

Communications 236

CWmike writes "A two-day Distracted Driving Summit in Washington concluded Thursday, after experts raised multiple thorny questions on how to reduce cell phone and texting while driving, with a big emphasis placed on driver and employer responsibility. But that was not before President Obama signed an executive order that tells all federal employees not to engage in texting while driving government vehicles. [US Transportation Secretary Ray] LaHood also announced that his department would ban text messaging altogether and restrict cell phone use by truck and interstate bus drivers, and disqualify school bus drivers from receiving commercial driver's licenses if they have been convicted of texting while driving. His department also plans to make permanent some restrictions placed on the use of cell phones in rail operations, he added without offering further details. The executive order 'shows the federal government is leading by example' and 'sends a signal that distracted driving is dangerous,' LaHood said."

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My Flying Car (-1, Offtopic)

mattwrock (1630159) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615371)

Seriously, If I had my automated flying car, i would have to be distracted with driving.. er ... flying!

Re:My Flying Car (1)

WED Fan (911325) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615945)

As a Federal Employee, I am glad to say that we have flying cars, we just aren't allowed to tell anyone about...

Uhmmm, on a separate note, in the CS we haven't been allowed to use cell phones period while driving a government vehicle. So, this order is kind of superfulous. If you check out the old government vehicle and return it dirty, low on fluids, with a scratch, you can count on a lot of hassle. Get in an accident? You're CS career is toast. And don't get a ticket or have someone call the GSA to complain about your driving in a government vehicle. They track those things.

Maybe it's a start (1, Insightful)

MarkOnBoat (900698) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615379)

And the next executive order will ban ALL kinds of stupidity by government workers... no, wait - isn't stupid a forever thing?

Re:Maybe it's a start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615395)

Maybe government needs the wisdom of crowds [metagovernment.org] ?

Re:Maybe it's a start (-1, Troll)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615419)

The wisdom of crowds is what we have now in the USA. Love them or hate them, the people picked Obama and the Democrats.

Re:Maybe it's a start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615513)

After 8 years of embarrassment, "the people" got tired of being ashamed. Besides, the Canadians called, they wanted their flag lapels and patches back from all the USA tourists.

Re:Maybe it's a start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615405)

*Looks at MarkOnBoat*

Yup.

Re:Maybe it's a start (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615409)

To bad they didn't ban federal workers from drinking and driving, Ted Kennedy wouldn't be roasting right now.

Re:Maybe it's a start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615463)

He was a Senator...not the same thing as a Federal Worker...

Re:Maybe it's a start (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29616259)

It's the Worker part that excludes them.

Re:Maybe it's a start (3, Insightful)

BESTouff (531293) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615535)

Interestingly North American people are genetically unable to thank their governement for anything it does or decides. If it comes from the governement, it must be a trap, mean or just plain wrong.

Wake up guys. Your governement is yours, you elected it. Consistently criticizing its actions is childish at best.

Re:Maybe it's a start (2, Insightful)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615597)

Don't forget the US is still a young country, we think 517 years ago history began. Nobody did anything before Christopher Columbus ended up in this hemisphere. So in response to your claims of childishness, all I have to say is: I know you are, but what am I?

Re:Maybe it's a start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615603)

I know you are, but what am I?

Re:Maybe it's a start (4, Insightful)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615601)

Dude - I voted for Obama. If Obama did EVERYTHING just like I want him to do, AND, he brought me breakfast in bed, did my laundry, fixed my car, and maintenanced my house, and gave me his salary for the privilege of serving me, I would STILL BITCH!! It's an American's right to bitch, even when everything is going better than right.

Wait - you didn't go to boot camp, did you? You would have learned, "A bitching sailor is a happy sailor." No one worries about what the troops have to say, until they quit saying anything. When they quit bitching, THEN YOU NEED TO WORRY!

Re:Maybe it's a start (1)

eht (8912) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616101)

It is not your right to bitch, it is your obligation to bitch.

Re:Maybe it's a start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615759)

Well, we elected the current government to end the war in Iraq (some of us also would have liked to see our troops come home from Afghanistan, too). We elected them to give us public health care. We elected them to lead us into a new age of environmental responsibility.

So far, all we've got is an executive order telling federal workers not to text on their cell phone while driving. We're still mired in Iraq and sending more troops to Afghanistan, public health care just died in the Senate finance committee long before even coming to a floor vote, and we're not seeing much progress on the green side.

Our government isn't living up to the promises it made during the election, even with its supermajority and public support.

Re:Maybe it's a start (1)

Talderas (1212466) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615841)

Don't project -your- perceptions onto the entire population that voted for Democrats over Republicans. It is as much the problem of Republicans betraying their own constituents, who decided to not vote for them, or even vote against them.

Don't be so vainglorious to assume that everything Pelosi, Reid, and the Media tell you about what the Democrat win in 2006 and 2008 meant is entirely accurate.

Re:Maybe it's a start (2, Informative)

psm321 (450181) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616027)

This. The pundits like to say that public opinion of the president and congress is falling because they are pushing for these reforms. The fact is, it's falling because they _aren't_ pushing for the reforms that the people put them into power for, and in fact doing the exact opposite in some cases (Obama supporting extraordinary rendition, etc)

Re:Maybe it's a start (1)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615739)

isn't stupid a forever thing?

More boundless than the universe, according to Einstein.

Re:Maybe it's a start (2, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615885)

You can't ban stupidity, but you can ban stupid actions.

no so more... (0, Flamebait)

cosm (1072588) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615397)

"omfg wat up homie, we passd teh bill, woot, cul8er @ teh fed to get r moneys!"

Lame headline? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615415)

"Executive Order Bars Federal Workers From Texting and Driving"

" But that was not before President Obama signed an executive order that tells all federal employees not to engage in texting while driving government vehicles."

Why not "texting or driving" next time? "The last time I looked in a dictionary, "or" was no closer to "while" than "and".

Re:Lame headline? (2, Insightful)

jandersen (462034) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615453)

The last time I looked in a dictionary, "or" was no closer to "while" than "and".

Perhaps you need another dictionary, or maybe you should look more carefully. According to Wiktionary:

While and whilst are conjunctions whose primary meaning is "during the time that"

IOW, it means (or implies) "at the same time as"; thus, "I text while I am driving" means "I text and drive at the same time". To most users of the English language, the sentence "I text or drive at the same time" doesn't make much meaning. Ergo, "while" has a good deal to do with "and", and not so much with "or"; some would even say that they are functionally equivalent.

Re:Lame headline? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615677)

"Texting and driving" is an analogy to "drinking and driving", which does not mean "drinking while driving" but driving under the influence of alcohol intoxication (which is long enough to justify the less precise expression "drinking and driving"). Barring federal workers from texting and driving can be interpreted as barring federal workers from texting and barring federal workers from driving. If the author had meant to express that federal workers are barred from texting while driving, why didn't he write that?

Re:Lame headline? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616203)

Perhaps you need another dictionary, or maybe you should look more carefully.

I'm looking into my SOED very carefully, and yet I have a really hard time trying to spot it.

IOW, it means (or implies) "at the same time as"; thus, "I text while I am driving" means "I text and drive at the same time". To most users of the English language, the sentence "I text or drive at the same time" doesn't make much meaning.

Reading comprehension fail? I should have used a sarcasm tag.

Ergo, "while" has a good deal to do with "and", and not so much with "or"; some would even say that they are functionally equivalent.

Yes, some would, the recipients of negative imperative sentences being some of the most prominent. :-)

Re:Lame headline? (3, Informative)

Sique (173459) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615471)

Because the conjunction A v B is only true when A and B both are true, while A ^ B is true if at least one of A and B is true.

So it is forbidden now to do both A and B at the same time, while Texting itself and Driving itself are still allowed. Thus only (A v B) is forbidden, but (A ^ B) is still allowed if (not A B).

Re:Lame headline? (3, Informative)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615653)

Um... Ok I'll bite... I think you have the symbols for "and" and "or" backwards [wikipedia.org]

But other than that, you are quite right.

Simple mnemonic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615993)

'^' looks sort of like an 'A' for "And".

Re:Lame headline? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615913)

So the last time your mother forbade you as a teen to take drugs and drink, you took some drugs and argued that you were not drinking at the same time?

Re:Lame headline? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616239)

Don't be ridiculous. "and" and "or" can be logical operators. The can also be used to enumerate members of a set. You are expected to know which is which based on context, as anyone over the age of four should be competent to figure out. You're not dumber than a four year old, are you?

Re:Lame headline? (5, Funny)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615593)

Why not "texting or driving" next time? "The last time I looked in a dictionary, "or" was no closer to "while" than "and".

Hand in your geek card.

if(employee.is_texting && employee.is_driving)
{
fire(employee);
}

Re:Lame headline? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615843)

Mod points really are like condoms, you never have them when you need them. I wish I could mod you insightful.

Re:Lame headline? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615891)

Unfortunately, there was a serious bug in this program. Due to namespace issues, fragile base class problems, etc, the call was mapped to Kiln::fire() rather than Employer::fire(). It is regrettable that this has resulted in a substantial loss of life. Appropriate steps have been taken to improve coding standards and developer training to ensure that this won't happen again.

Re:Lame headline? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615973)

Would you be willing to trade your linguist card for my geek card? :-)

Employer Responsibility (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615423)

In this case, the Executive Order applies to employees of the Federal Government. That sounds like an employer taking responsibility by stating company policy for employees when they are driving employer-owned vehicles. When those same people are driving their own cars on their own time they are still free to be fucking morons and kill themselves.

...kill themselves. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615881)

And me...

Re:Employer Responsibility (3, Insightful)

noidentity (188756) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616257)

That sounds like an employer taking responsibility by stating company policy for employees when they are driving employer-owned vehicles. When those same people are driving their own cars on their own time they are still free to be fucking morons and kill themselves.

And kill others. Which is why this is kind of odd, since it's not just the vehicle that's put at risk.

Just federal employees? (5, Insightful)

salmacis2 (643788) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615439)

What? Texting and driving isn't already illegal in the USA? It's illegal in the UK, and quite right too. A car is a lethal weapon if you are not paying attention - and it's impossible to compose a text message while simultaneously maintain the necessary level of attention to driving.

Re:Just federal employees? (4, Funny)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615473)

and it's impossible to compose a text message while simultaneously maintain the necessary level of attention to driving.

Rubbish! I'm writing this on my iPhone right now and I am safely in control of this vehic

 

Re:Just federal employees? (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615673)

I think that's the first stop mid-sentence where the supposed loss of connection is actually plausible. Usually it involves the actual internet connection or computer going down, but here, you actually could've crashed, accidentally hitting submit in the process.

Re:Just federal employees? (2, Interesting)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615495)

Texting probably is- I'd think it was covered under reckless driving statutes.

You'd think it was a foregone conclusion, really, that this was a BAD thing to do- but people do it right along with the trying to drive whilst the phone's up to the head. But noooo....

Re:Just federal employees? (4, Interesting)

Jason Levine (196982) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615497)

It's illegal where I live (New York) even though I've seen people obviously texting while they're driving. Many states, though, are having problems passing bans because some people think it is a "personal rights" issue. They fail to realize, however, that while you might have the right to take a chance with your life due to texting while driving, you don't have the right to take chances with other people's rights. If you cross the center line and plow into another car head on because you just *had* to reply to your friend's incoming text message, you could wind up killing people other than yourself. (There was a story on NPR where this exact thing happened. The twenty year old who was texting killed a parent and child and he survived.)

Personally, I think it is sad that we even need to ban it. It should be a common sense thing that you shouldn't be looking at your phone to compose a text while you're driving. If you really need to text, pull over, send the text, then start back up. If you really need to talk with the person, get a hands-free set and call them. (Yes, being engaged in a phone conversation is still distracting, but it is less distracting than looking away from the road for a few seconds to type and send a text message.

Re:Just federal employees? (5, Insightful)

c (8461) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615575)

> Personally, I think it is sad that we even need to ban it.

That's the really silly part... we don't need to ban it. Just about any sane jurisdiction that allows driving already has laws against various forms of reckless or distracted driving. Before cell phones, our parents and grandparents were dealing with people driving while shaving, reading newspapers, having sex (partner optional), applying makeup, eating, beating the kids, etc. This stuff isn't new, and if we aren't enforcing the laws already on the books, creating a new law isn't going to do a damn thing except (maybe) raise awareness of the issue.

c.

Re:Just federal employees? (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615785)

Legislators make new laws so that us peons vent our wrath arguing over the merits of the laws, rather than over the merits of having legislators at all.

That's not much of a damn thing, but it does explain why the statute book always grows.

Re:Just federal employees? (5, Informative)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615803)

Actually, it turns out that's not the case. I thought it was too, until a recent Slashdot discussion where someone corrected me. I've since done a little more research and found this chart published by the AAA: http://www.aaapublicaffairs.com/Assets/Files/20099111616410.DistractedDrivingLaws.doc [aaapublicaffairs.com] (warning: Word doc, not HTML or PDF for some reason).

Only four states ban "distracted driving", and various other combinations of states ban texting, talking on a phone, or other specific actions. There are only two states (Ohio and Wisconsin) that don't ban any of these behaviors. As for the rest, it's a hodgepodge of restrictions. It's worth checking out the link to make sure you know what your state does, and does not, ban.

Re:Just federal employees? (2, Insightful)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616361)

All states ban driving in an unsafe manner. States with "driving while distracted" laws are on the way to the same stupid proliferation of laws that leads to "no texting" laws. If someone can drive so well and hold their phone against the wheel such that you can't tell they're texting, you don't need to stop them. Otherwise, it's pretty much always obvious; the guy who is driving like he's got lag needs to be checked out. If it turns out he was on his phone at the time, he should be given a ticket, not for using his phone while driving, but for unsafe driving.

The reason we do have these laws is to get these people through the court system faster, of course. It eliminates all arguments about whether one was driving safely or not. I should think it would be enough to rely on precedent, but I guess not.

Further proof that more courts, more judges, more laws, more jails, and more prisons will not solve what is really wrong with this country.

Re:Just federal employees? (3, Insightful)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616035)

That's the really silly part... we don't need to ban it. Just about any sane jurisdiction that allows driving already has laws against various forms of reckless or distracted driving.

I'm so sick of people making this argument every time this topic comes up. To penalize texting while driving under the current law, you would have to haul each offender into court, and each and every time try to prove to a jury that texting is indeed distracted driving. Huge amounts of resources would be wasted doing this over and over again. Each time it would be fought tooth-and-nail by slick and clever defense lawyers who would bring in all sorts of pseudo statistics to try raise doubts that texting while driving has been 100% air-tight proven to be dangerous. Remember how they convinced a jury that OJ wasn't guilty?

A specific law would point out that texting while driving == distracted driving, no ifs, ands or buts. This fact would not have to be re-proven in every case. Pay the ticket, move on, and don't do it again.

Re:Just federal employees? (1)

Ost99 (101831) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616281)

Just about any sane jurisdiction that allows driving already has laws against various forms of reckless or distracted driving.

Reckless or distracted driving is (somewhat) subjective, those laws will only be used when something happens.
If you want the problem to go away, you need to pull people over for doing it and the fine must be substantial.

Where I live the fine is $200 for using a phone without handsfree while driving (roughly one fine pr 500 inhabitants were handed out last year).
Unfortunately that doesn't seem like a high enough fine to get people to change their behavior. It might help if the fine was raised to the same level as the Italian fine, about $1000.

Re:Just federal employees? (1)

L0rdJedi (65690) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615731)

If you really need to text, pull over, send the text, then start back up.

Isn't New York one of those places where if you're even in your car, on the side of the road and on the phone, they'll still give you a ticket?

Re:Just federal employees? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615871)

...you might have the right to take a chance with your life due to texting while driving, you don't have the right to take chances with other people's rights.

Actually, you do have the right to take chances with other people's rights, but not the right to interfere with others rights. Think of it this way, from your point of view, you have the right to drive on the road without fear that some idiot is going to hit you because they're too stupid to realize they can't text while driving. From my point of view, telling me that I can't text while driving, is interfering with my rights. Your supposition is that it is impossible to safely text while driving. To that end I point out, that an act is not considered inciting a riot, a crime, unless you can reasonably expect that your actions will cause a riot. In other words, it's akin to the difference between reasonable doubt in a criminal trial, and preponderance of evidence in a civil trial. The american way is to err on the side of freedom. If your concern is with the twenty-year-old mentioned in your anecdote, I purport that the American way of dealing with it is the following solution instead of trampling on people's rights: Apply the law that provides a recklessness enhancement to both wrongful death (civil) and manslaughter (criminal). If this law cannot be succesfully applied, then pass new legislation that strengthens it. A silly $500 fine to "prevent" behaviour that takes "chances" is certainly not the answer, and serves only to take away rights, without solving the underlying problem.

Re:Just federal employees? (1)

SonnyDog09 (1500475) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616277)

It should be a common sense thing ....... the problem is that "common sense" is all too rare. If we could rely on common sense, we wouldn't have to remind people that coffee is hot.

Re:Just federal employees? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615517)

I have heard that laws against texting / talking on the phone / whatever while driving do not actually cause there to be less accidents. People will continue to do so. However, the only thing that does change is the amount of revenue generated from traffic violations.

My ideal system for dealing with texting / drinking / $distraction while driving would go like this: Once you've hit someone while being distracted or intoxicated, they get you not only for whatever injuries and damages you do, but also get you for criminal negligence. Otherwise, consider yourself very very lucky that you haven't hurt or killed someone or damaged something. Bonus points if the cops pull you over while you're intoxicated and hold you until you are no longer intoxicated.

Re:Just federal employees? (1)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615727)

I have heard that laws against texting / talking on the phone / whatever while driving do not actually cause there to be less accidents.

I've heard that listening to unsourced claims by anonymous cowards on Slashdot may be hazardous to your brain functions.

My ideal system for dealing with texting / drinking / $distraction while driving would go like this: Once you've hit someone while being distracted or intoxicated, they get you not only for whatever injuries and damages you do, but also get you for criminal negligence.

That's lovely, unless you're the guy who got dead because no-one pulled the driver for doing something obviously dangerous before the accident.

I propose an alternative approach: anyone who drives a vehicle that is likely to cause a fatality in a collision, and who is demonstrably not properly alert and in control of that vehicle for any reason, should be treated the same way as someone who attempts murder. A crazy number of people get killed or seriously hurt on the road every year, and a crazy number of drivers are scarily blasé about it, warm and cozy inside their big metal safety cages.

Re:Just federal employees? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616313)

and *my* ideal would be to take advantage of the silicon revolution and get the driver out of the equation.

Re:Just federal employees? (1)

kemenaran (1129201) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615581)

It's illegal in France too : you can't text while driving, and can phone only with a hands-free set. Makes sense - for the obvious reasons mentioned above. I was really surprised to see USA *bus-drivers* answering long calls : they have a full pack of passengers right behind them, what are they thinking ?!

But the UK should have banned hands-free too (2, Informative)

Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615647)

It's illegal in the UK, and quite right too.

Well, saying it's illegal is reasonable enough, but one could argue that it should be covered by general laws about driving without paying proper attention.

The problem with making a specific law against using hand-held phones is that it led to a wave of advertising about how you should buy a hands-free kit to stay safe while you're driving. Some large advertising used literally those words.

Unfortunately, statistically, using a hands-free kit is almost as dangerous as using a handheld kit, and the new law was used by advertisers to condone it.

Final note to those who are about to reply and say that I'm wrong and you're much safer using a hands-free kit: please spare us. You are wrong, and the evidence is overwhelming. For a start, the same data that the British government used to justify the law banning handheld phones would support a ban on hands-free kit as well. Google is your friend. Please let's not have another ill-informed "I am a better driver than you" subthread. Thank you.

Re:But the UK should have banned hands-free too (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615873)

Unfortunately, statistically, using a hands-free kit is almost as dangerous as using a handheld kit, and the new law was used by advertisers to condone it.

Do you have a citation for that? The study I saw showed that using a hands free kit had the same effect on your reaction time, which is not the same thing. Someone with one hand on their phone has a greater response time for anything that they need to do with that hand and someone holding the phone with their shoulder has reduced visibility (because they can't turn their head so much). Neither of these was addressed by the study.

Re:But the UK should have banned hands-free too (2, Insightful)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615901)

Unfortunately, statistically, using a hands-free kit is almost as dangerous as using a handheld kit, and the new law was used by advertisers to condone it.

The real question is, how do you send text messages with a hands-free kit?

Re:Just federal employees? (1)

corbettw (214229) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615853)

What? Texting and driving isn't already illegal in the USA? It's illegal in the UK, and quite right too.

It's absurd to compare the USA to the UK in this type of situation. It's much more accurate to compare our national government to the EU. Under our Federal system of government, most laws like this are supposed to be handled by individual states, not the central government. That doesn't mean that Congress won't pass some stupid law, only that they shouldn't bother getting involved in minutiae.

There's an argument to be made that since the Federal government pays for much of the maintenance on the interstate highway system and regulates it under the Commerce Clause, that they could ban texting while driving on an interstate or US highway; they could also withhold highway funds from states that allow that behavior (that's how we ended up with a national drinking age). But they can't pass a law saying that you can't drive on state or private property while texting, that would be a violation of each state's sovereignty and the 10th Amendment to our Constitution. (Yes, I know this is splitting hairs since it all accomplishes the same thing, but these are important hairs to keep intact.)

Re:Just federal employees? (4, Informative)

schwanerhill (135840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615875)

Re "Just federal employees": The president can ban federal employees from texting while driving for work (or having cream in their coffee while on the job, for that matter, if he so chose) by an executive order. Banning all drivers from texting would take an act of a legislature, and this sort of thing is typically done by state law, not federal law. Congress can effectively force states to enact highway laws like this by withholding federal highway funds.

Congress may get there soon, but it takes more time.

Re:Just federal employees? (1)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616031)

What? Texting and driving isn't already illegal in the USA? It's illegal in the UK, and quite right too. A car is a lethal weapon if you are not paying attention - and it's impossible to compose a text message while simultaneously maintain the necessary level of attention to driving.

But we're constantly getting conflicting messages on what to do [thedailyshow.com] from our media! How are we supposed to know what's right and what's wrong?!?

Re:Just federal employees? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29616129)

Distracted driving is dangerous.

Texting while driving is not necessarily distracting. There is a large angry group of people who don't find driving to be that difficult and don't really pay attention anyways. I probably pay _more_ attention when texting.

I'm sorry that you can't do it, but please stop making laws that keep me from doing it because you can't.

Re:Just federal employees? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29616205)

it's impossible to compose a text message while simultaneously maintain the necessary level of attention to driving.

Nonsense, Heck I am doing it right now on going down i-90 at

[Carrier lost]

'bout time (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615447)

Now the more interesting question is how you enforce this.

For starters, I think they're going to have to punish managers who want their people available 24x7x365. If you ban cell phone use and texting by federal employees while driving, and the federal employees in question are driving home, you're just going to have to wait. Which shouldn't be a problem - if it is a real problem then you haven't properly trained backup personnel to cover for the guy who's driving home, which means that if he slams into a tree due to texting you're all going to be in much bigger trouble.

This came up in a discussion on another site, and a doctor pointed out "If I can get to the side of the road and stop to handle what could easily be a life-or-death emergency, you can get to the side of the road and stop to handle whatever you're dealing with."

Re:'bout time (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615505)

You don't have to ban use of the voice function while driving. Just mandate that they can't do it without using a proper speakerphone mode or other hands-free.

Most of the phones this lot use have Bluetooth as a feature- there's little excuse for not having a "Borg implant" or using a speakerphone device on the visor that ties to their phone while they're driving.

Re:'bout time (2, Informative)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615537)

Using a hands-free is only slightly less dangerous than holding a phone to your head.

The problem is no so much the occupied hand as the distracted brain.

Re:'bout time (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615729)

I can talk to hands free, I can talk to a passenger but a mobile to my ear is down right dangerous and I stopped doing it of my own accord in the nineties. I found myself unconsiously averting my eyes upwards when I had to think about what was being said on the mobile. I don't know why a mobile is worse, perhaps it's a pavlov dog thing since when you have a phone to your ear you are normally trying to block out your surroundings.

Having said that, talking to a passenger is an experience thing, you have to learn how to ignore the social imperitive to engage with the person you are talking to, beginers universally suck at this particular skill. If you have ever tried to teach your kids to drive you will know what I mean.

/old_fart_anecdote

Re:'bout time (2, Insightful)

schwanerhill (135840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615989)

I don't know why a mobile is worse, perhaps it's a pavlov dog thing since when you have a phone to your ear you are normally trying to block out your surroundings.

I suspect a big part of it is that passengers are present and can see what's going on on the road.

When there's traffic that needs attention and I, as the driver, get distracted from the conversation I'm having with my passenger, the passenger understands why I'm distracted from the conversation without the need for me to explain why. When talking on the phone, it takes both more time and more mental effort on my part to explain what's going on to the person I'm talking to. ("Sorry, I'm concentrating on switching lanes now, so I'm not listening to what you're saying".) In practice, when on the phone, the driver is more likely to just keep full attention on the conversation.

That's not to say that having an involved conversation with a passenger can't be dangerous, just less so.

Re:'bout time (1)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616227)

The audio quality on phones is quite poor. It takes a lot more brain power to parse language from a poor quality source than from a high-quality source, like the person sitting next to you.

Re:'bout time (2, Interesting)

Firemouth (1360899) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615553)

It doesn't matter. If you're distracted, the method of the distraction doesn't matter. If they're calling you, odds are its not a "ok is the computer plugged in?". The call is probably going to require some kind of thought, which means your brain isn't focusing on the dynamic traffic conditions. If someone slams on their brakes in front of you, and you're distracted, there's a good chance you won't see them braking before its too late. I say "distracted" not "on the phone" because there have always been other methods of distraction that I think are equally as bad. I think cell phones are getting the limelight because the frequency of their usage is significantly higher than any other distraction out there. Kids not behaving, something rolling around you're trying to grab, eating a big mac, doing your makeup, shaving, etc. All of those happen and cause distractions which can and have caused accidents.

Distractions (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616175)

I used to work the night shift and when driving home one summers night under a bright moon a spider leapt from the visor on a single silk thread. It paused for maybe a second in front of my face, just long enough for me to focus and regognise what it was. I could swear I saw a tiny smirk before it abruptly absailed down through my open overalls and into the croutch region.

I spent my youth working in the Aussie bush, spiders don't bother me. However the surprise factor of seeing it hover and then dive into my jocks brought me very close to my own distracted driver pile up.

Speaking of the bush, seeing a cow rolling over the roof of the car in front that's doing 100+km/hr is a whole different level of distraction!

Re:'bout time (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615609)

I think it would be simpler to just not give the employees access to government vehicles. Make them drive their own vehicle. Problem solved. No more texting while driving a government vehicle.

Re:'bout time (1)

Skater (41976) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616005)

This is more of a retroactive thing, I assume. If you work for the federal gov't, and cause an accident that's the result of you texting while driving on official time, you can be fired for conduct problems (and it's easy to remove people for conduct problems - it's performance problems that are difficult to deal with).

Insider's view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615451)

As a hard-working government employee, this sounds like a sensible rule to me. I don't text, but I do (sometimes) use my phone while driving. Hands free or not, I know I shouldn't -- it's the distraction that's the killer, not the physical act of holding the phone. How 'bout some kind of interlock that would prevent phones from working while in a moving vehicle?

Re:Insider's view (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615525)

Hands-free's aren't so much of a distraction. It's no worse than having a conversation with someone in the car while driving when it's on speaker or on hands-free. It's when you have it up to your head that it becomes a problem and you lose quite a bit of ability to pay attention to the road when you do that.

I don't have issues when driving with a hands-free. I know I'm doing something I probably shouldn't be when the phone's up to the head- I can tell that I'm not paying attention to the road like I should the few, few times I've ended up doing that. So, I don't do that one.

Re:Insider's view (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615583)

Studies have found that hands free sets *are* worse than people in the back of the car (suggesting reasons like lower voice quality, and not shutting up during tricky situations - if you are a passenger it is in your interests that the car not crash). But they are better than taking your hand off the wheel, so they are not banned in as many countries as ban hands-on cell-phone use while driving.

Re:Insider's view (1)

Sebilrazen (870600) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615621)

Some studies [dot.gov] have said that any phone conversation is a distraction, hands free or not, more so than if there's another occupant in the vehicle, because the second set of eyes are also alert for dangers, whereas the person on the other end of the phone is entirely unaware of the situation on the road in front of you.

Re:Insider's view (3, Informative)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615635)

They've done numerous [sciencedaily.com] studies [foxnews.com] that say you're wrong. Holding the phone is an additional distraction, but there is still a significant difference between talking on a cell (hands free or otherwise) and talking to a passenger. For one, your passenger can say "watch out!" if you lose focus and start to drift; your phone cannot. For another, people need to focus more on phone calls; the fidelity isn't as good on either end so they need to focus on hearing and being heard more than in an in person conversation. You know all those people who talk 20 decibels louder than normal on a cell, even though no recent cell phone benefits significantly from the additional volume? They've focused on the call (and being heard) so much that they forget to self-regulate. If they can't regulate the volume of their voice (a task related to the conversation), why do you think they'll be able to drive effectively?

Re:Insider's view (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615861)

Hands-free is not the same as an in-car conversation. If you are having an in-car conversation and some potentially dangerous driving situation arises, you can do something that takes no attention or time at all: shut up. Except for very young children, it will be immediately obvious to all in the car why you are no longer talking, and that perhaps it is in their best interest to also shut up. If you are on the phone and shut up, you will be barraged by incessant 'can you hear me', 'are you there', 'is everything ok' type questions, increasing your frustration and making the situation even more dangerous. If you hang up (which is itself a distraction), the other person will think the call dropped, and call back - also not helpful.

Really? (5, Insightful)

david@ecsd.com (45841) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615467)

I find it absolutely amazing that you have to have the president of the United States tell adults that texting while driving is a bad idea. It's bad enough that even in the small city where I live every day is another near crash with some jackass with their effing phone glued to their ear, blithely unaware of their surroundings.

I wish it were just teenagers, but these are adults who should know better. If you get in your car, turn the bitch off. Full stop. What really gets me is the douche bags who rationalize what they're doing because, "it's just for a couple of seconds," or, "I'm good at multitasking." Sure, whatever, you bet. Learn how to use your damn voice mail because nothing is that important.

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615577)

I've wondered how this got to be such a large problem to begin with. 10-15 years ago cell phones weren't so prevalent. Yet you didn't see 1/4 of the cars pulled over at rest stops making phone calls. Somehow people got on with their life without constant communication.

Sure, having instant access can be useful at times.

But what has changed that so many people's lives would seemingly fall apart if they had to put down the phone for 10 minutes? It is as if there's an emergency every half hour that can't go unanswered right then and there. Do people really live their lives like that?

Re:Really? (1)

OrangeMonkey11 (1553753) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615595)

I agree, just the other night some fat bastard and his cow were both texting while on the road and the SOB swerved back and forth from one lane to the other and then ended up driving in the middle of both lanes.

Re:Really? (2, Informative)

schwanerhill (135840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616063)

Learn how to use your damn voice mail because nothing is that important.

And if it is that damn important, pull over to the side of the road.

On a serious note, this order really does have some practical benefit because if a federal employee has something that is important enough that it has to be dealt with while driving, the employee can pull over, make the phone call, and the employee's boss will have no justification to complain about the employee being 5 minutes late for whatever appointment s/he was driving to. If the boss complains, the employee has a written policy to cite.

Distracted Driving Summit? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615477)

A "Distracted Driving Summit" sounds like a great use of taxpayer money.

Why isn't this prohibited already? (1)

netpixie (155816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615529)

WTF?

What's next, an executive order prohibiting sleeping whilst driving?

Re:Why isn't this prohibited already? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615567)

Coming from a country where it is banned already, I'd say its generally because americans seem to go up in arms when the government tries to ban anything, no matter how sensible.

More stuff that misses the point (1)

dirk (87083) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615543)

I don't think anyone is going to say that texting while driving is a good idea, but it is already against the law. There are laws against reckless driving, and these would include things like texting while driving. Why do we need more rules against something that is already against the rules? If someone is doing this, use the existing rules. Since this is specifically pointed out, does that mean eating lunch while driving is okay, since there isn't a rule specifically against it? What about reading a book? Or changing clothes?

The whole idea behind rules and laws is to make them broad enough to cover various situations, which the current rules are. Once you get into specifically naming things that are not allowed, you get into the argument that "well, it doesn't specifically say that it isn't allowed" because some things are specially outlawed and some aren't. You can't list every situation that is covered by a law, so it's better to not list any and just apply the law.

Re:More stuff that misses the point (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615935)

The problem, as was pointed out in the last article, is twofold:
  1. These laws are not well enforced. It is much easier to prosecute someone for speeding, for example, than dangerous driving because one has objective evidence while the other relies on subjective judgement.
  2. Potentially dangerous driving is not an offence. You can not be pulled over for doing something that might be dangerous (or, if you can, you are almost certain not to be convicted).

The second of these is a major problem. Things like texting distract you, reduce your road awareness and control over the vehicle, and increase your reaction time. They do not make you drive in a way that appears dangerous until the road conditions change suddenly. The driver who is texting can look like he is completely in control of the vehicle until right before he has an accident. This makes them difficult to enforce without a specific law.

Re:More stuff that misses the point (1)

bws111 (1216812) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616093)

The problem with using reckless driving types laws is that they are too late. Once you are exhibiting a behavior which is reckless (lane changes, etc) the only thing that separates that from a accident is that no-one else had the misfortune of being there at the time. The purpose of texting bans, etc is to stop a behavior which is likely to be a problem BEFORE it is actually a problem.

Broad laws are OK after the fact - you crashed, so it is reasonable to say you were reckless. Broad laws to prevent behavior are horrible, they put way to much discretion into the hands of the police. Some cops may think texting is reckless, some may think talking with a passenger is reckless, some may think driving with head-pounding music blasting is reckless, etc. That is why it is important the specific behaviors are specified.

Re:More stuff that misses the point (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616309)

The problem with using reckless driving types laws is that they are too late. Once you are exhibiting a behavior which is reckless (lane changes, etc) the only thing that separates that from a accident is that no-one else had the misfortune of being there at the time. The purpose of texting bans, etc is to stop a behavior which is likely to be a problem BEFORE it is actually a problem.

How is a texting while driving law any different than a reckless driving law? The odds of a police officer being able to see that I am texting while driving is rather slim. All he can see is that I am looking down more than is safe (if that) or that my driving is erratic. So a texting while driving law is either, also, "too late", or no different than a reckless driving law enforced on behavior. do you really think that with these laws in place people will have their cellphones out by the time the officer gets to the door of the car?

Talk about draconian leadership (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615585)

I am all for states passing laws for punishing the use of hands-on devices while driving, but this new rule set they want to push on states for commercial drivers is just draconian.

Under current rules if you are convicted of one of the major offenses you loose your commerical license for 1 year. Such offenses include:Driving Under the Influence of alcohol or drugs, Hit and Run, Refusing to submit to a breath or blood test to determine the presence of drugs or an alcohol concentration.
If you have two convictions you lose it for life.
Under this you now lose your commerical license for life after just conviction.

Re:Talk about draconian leadership (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615631)

And rightly so. I don't want no one that has been convicted of "Hit and Run" or "DUI" driving my kids to school, thank you very much. Why give this scum a second chance at all? Anyone that drinks and drives deserves to be in jail for a very VERY long time. Anyone that hits and runs shows a complete and utter lack of character and responsability. People like that have no business being comercial drivers of any sort, sorry. You fuck up, you pay the price. It's about time people start to take responsability for their actions.

Re:Talk about draconian leadership (1)

Lunoria (1496339) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616051)

And rightly so. I don't want no one that has been convicted of "Hit and Run" or "DUI" driving my kids to school, thank you very much. Why give this scum a second chance at all?

Everyone deserves a second chance. People change over their lives. If they make a mistake when they were 20, and then 30 years later, they are not allowed to participate in what they enjoy, you are punishing them unfairly. I'd admit that some people don't change. Reading about people with 17+ drunk driving convictions, and they still don't get jail time while drinking and driving boggles my mind.

Re:Talk about draconian leadership (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 5 years ago | (#29616173)

So? It's hardly the sort of thing you do by accident...and if you're the sort of person who can't understand how stupid/dangerous it is then you don't deserve a license.

Nice Study from Car and Driver (2, Interesting)

gizmonic (302697) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615587)

Car and Driver published a study in which they compared reading and writing text messages with drunk driving. They only tested reaction times, not vehicle control. But, in general, reading and writing texts led to worse reaction times than being intoxicated. Decent and short read.

http://tinyurl.com/candtextingwhiledriving [tinyurl.com]

As another posted mentioned though, enforcement will be the real issue. Sounds like it will be more post crash cell phone log analysis to see if you were texting than anything they can pull you over for. Because unless you're doing it in a very obvious manner, there's no real way to tell you're doing it until you crash.

Car and Driver obviously funded by ACORN (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29615967)

the democrats suffered another major blow today as it was revealed that ACORN child prostitution rings are behind the ban on cellphones while driving government vehicles. Investigators for World Net Daily video taped ACORN officials offering to sell them children in exchange for their cellphones.

Baby... Bath Water (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615633)

[US Transportation Secretary Ray] LaHood also announced that his department would ban text messaging altogether

Oh! Look! There was a baby in that thar water after all! Seriously, texting is a useful mean of asynchronous communication between workers who are not at their computers. Why ban it entirely? I totally agree with the driving ban, but a blanket ban just seem like someone trying to brown-nose to his boss without really understanding the purpose of the boss' new policy. I can see it now:

President Obama and his senior staff are in a meeting:

President: So on our latest driving while distract push, did everyone implement the "no eating while driving a government vehicle" rule?
*General noises of consent come from the various secretaries and czars*
Secretary of Transportation: Not only that sir, We've completely banned eating at the DoT! I myself haven't had a meal in... ew.. I don't... feel
*Secretary of Transportation collapses on the floor*

Too much of a good idea is no longer a good idea.

Re:Baby... Bath Water (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615951)

It's part of Obama's Blackberry agenda; ban texting and make everyone get a Blackberry and send emails instead.

I don't text and drive (1)

JohnHegarty (453016) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615811)

I don't text and drive any more, now that I have my Blackberry it's emailing and driving from now on.

Executive Order? (1)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 5 years ago | (#29615815)

Wow - what an AWESOME display of Obama's presidential powers!

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