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US May Disable All Car Phones, Says Trans. Secretary 1065

gambit3 writes "The US government may require cars to include scrambling tech that would disable mobile-phone use by drivers, and perhaps passengers. 'I think it will be done,' US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said on Wednesday morning. 'I think the technology is there and I think you're going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles to disable these cell phones.' LaHood is on a self-described 'rampage' against distracted driving, and if making it impossible to use a mobile phone while in a car can save lives, he's all for it."
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US May Disable All Car Phones, Says Trans. Secretary

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  • Go for it (Score:4, Insightful)

    by maiden_taiwan ( 516943 ) * on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:34PM (#34274112)

    I'd love to see this happen. Just yesterday, I watched the driver in front of me smash his car through a fence into someone's backyard. He'd been on the phone. If someone had been in the way at the time, they'd be dead.

    Unfortunately, the same corporate CEO's who make calls in their cars also buy congresspeople, so I think the odds are slim this kind of legislation would pass.

    • Re:Go for it (Score:4, Insightful)

      by insertwackynamehere ( 891357 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:36PM (#34274132) Journal

      Because powerful politician buying CEOs are driving themselves, right ? :)

      • Re:Go for it (Score:4, Insightful)

        by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:39PM (#34274182) Journal
        Even if they're passengers, there's no technology available (now or ever) which can distinguish between a cell being used by a driver and a cell being used by a passenger. Selective disabling is not possible, so passengers will also be affected.
        • Re:Go for it (Score:5, Insightful)

          by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:48PM (#34274386)

          FCC will not allow this.

          There are already clear laws on the books prohibiting cell phones in prisons, yet the FCC will not allow cell jamming in prisons.

          The number of cell phone induced accidents is GROSSLY inflated in another act of security theater. Cops are instructed to report cell phone involvement if the merely SEE a cell phone in an accident.

          You only need one story like this Bad Cell Phone Reception Made Reporting Bus Accident More Difficult [] to realize how dumb this would be. People dieing by the side of the road because no one can call for help due to all the vehicles jamming signals.

          Not going to happen.

          • Re:Go for it (Score:5, Interesting)

            by OzPeter ( 195038 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:11PM (#34274876)

            FCC will not allow this.

            There are already clear laws on the books prohibiting cell phones in prisons, yet the FCC will not allow cell jamming in prisons.

            What I don't understand is why people want to jam cell phones in prisons. All you need to do is surround the prison with cell towers that *you* control and then whitelist any cell #'s that you authorize. Any other cell # gets cut off at the tower and you have a wonderful record of how many illegal cell phones there are in the prison. No jamming required at all!

          • Re:Go for it (Score:4, Interesting)

            by im_thatoneguy ( 819432 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:20PM (#34275040)

            So far I've gotten 4 drunk drivers off the road, reported 2 extremely dangerous incidencts where debris fell onto a freeway (railroad tie and blown into traffic sign on its side pointed forward so as to be on edge to a driver)... and had 0 related phone related accidents.

          • Re:Go for it (Score:4, Interesting)

            by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:42PM (#34275436) Journal
            >The number of cell phone induced accidents is GROSSLY inflated in another act of security theater.

            I freely admit this is anecdotal evidence, but in the last four years I've had four people run into the back end of my car when I was stopped at a stoplight. Every time I've seen it coming, and I've seen the person talking on a cellphone right up to the moment of impact.

            I'm having some bumperstickers made that say "is that call worth $2500?/that's how much bumper replacements will cost you" if I can trim the second line down to something legible on a bumper sticker. Though they'll be too busy talking on their phones to read it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by dr2chase ( 653338 )
            Use that door thing, and step outside the car before calling.

            People make the lamest excuses for continuing to use their cell phones.
    • Re:Go for it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by oldspewey ( 1303305 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:36PM (#34274144)

      Super idea. Let's take away the ability for anybody inside a vehicle (and presumably within some radius outside of it too) to make a 911 call in the case of an emergency.


      • No kidding (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:55PM (#34274564)

        About 6 years ago I crashed my car and the first thing I did after I was no longer dazed was fish out my cell phone and call 911. The faster that call was made, the faster first responders could get there. Thankfully nobody was all that seriously hurt, but I was glad I could summon help quickly, and without having to get out of the car. At first, I wasn't sure I could move under my own power (turned out I could just took a bit).

        I don't disagree that distracted drivers are a problem but you get to the whole baby/bathwater situation. Deal with distracted drivers, maybe by requireing more stringent testing, better enforcement, whatever. Just having shitloads of rolling cellphone jammers is a bad idea. The prevelence of cellphones is something that helps make us safer these days. People can quickly and accurately summon emergency responders. That is of value, let's not fuck it up.

    • Re:Go for it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by El Torico ( 732160 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:42PM (#34274242)

      So, let's just punish everyone driving instead of holding individuals accountable for their reckless driving?

      Sometimes the right wing yelps of "Nanny State!" aren't just a boy crying wolf.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Talking on a cell phone while driving increases your risk of an accident by 400%. []

        This isn't about some individual reckless drivers talking on the cell phone. It's a limitation of our brains.

        • Re:Go for it (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DarKnyht ( 671407 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:03PM (#34274750)

          Guess what, so does eating while driving, changing the radio station, changing clothes, dealing with crying toddler in back of car, and even talking to someone else located in the car. The fact is anything can be a severe distraction to driving.

          Poor judgement leads to accidents and not the items being used. And as someone famously said, "You can't fix stupid."

          • Re:Go for it (Score:5, Informative)

            by maiden_taiwan ( 516943 ) * on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:30PM (#34275232)

            That's a fine opinion, but look at the research. The data don't agree with you. Driving while talking on a cell phone turns out worse than all the things you mention, when actually measured. There seems to be something special about the way the brain handles a phone conversation that impairs the ability to multitask more severely.

            Don't take my word for it. Read the research.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by budgenator ( 254554 )

          You say that like if you take the idiots cellphone distraction away from them they would just look for that song on their ipod, or program the GPS or even change their 8-track tape instead; idiots will be idiots. How about tying their tie or putting on their eye makeup, changing their pants, bras or shoes.

    • by Tx ( 96709 )

      So why not call for cars to be banned? Just because some dumbasses misuse phones doesn't mean everybody should be prevented form using them, any more than the fact some drivers are terminally incompetent should mean that all cars ought to be banned. It's ridiculous. By all means increase the penalties for people caught misusing phones in a vehicle, that would make some sense.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        The data show that your risk of an accident increases while 4x when you're on the phone. []

        This has nothing to do with "misuse." It's a human limitation.

        • Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by wfolta ( 603698 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:31PM (#34275248)

          I followed the link and your risk of accident increases 4x while TEXTING. That's a lot more involved than merely talking. I didn't click on that link to watch that video, but my first question would be, "4x more likely than what?" I could easily say that you're 1000x more likely to get into an accident while on the cellphone compared to me (sitting in my car in my parking space).

          I have made two or three 911 calls from my car over the years. Would I have had to pull over -- if that's even possible -- and turn off my car to call now? Would someone on the sidewalk nearby be able to make calls with nearby cars streaming by at rush hour?

    • Live Traffic info? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by whoever57 ( 658626 )

      GPS navigation devices can download live traffic info using cellphones. How is this supposed to work if all cellphones are jammed?

      OnStar can give directions using the cellphone network. How is this supposed to work if all cellphones are jammed?

      You are in an accident and you need your onstar system to call for help. Can you be sure the jammer was disabled?


      There are too many uses for cellphones other than just making calls, many of which improve safety. The cat is out of the bag and it is too late.

  • by martas ( 1439879 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:34PM (#34274116)
    To make sure blowjobs aren't distracting our drivers.
    • by kenrblan ( 1388237 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:50PM (#34274426)
      Great insightful and funny comment. Trying to block cell phones as a distraction is futile. The problem is drivers who are looking for distractions. Seeing other drivers texting is quite frightening, but I have seen many other distractions. Some I have witnessed include application of makeup using rear view mirror, reading books and newspapers, browsing for items out of reach, eating with both hands occupied, using a laptop computer, and watching a movie on portable devices. That is not anywhere close to an exhaustive list, but it is quite obvious that technology cannot solve all distractions.
      • by DamnRogue ( 731140 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:44PM (#34275506)

        People will do absolutely anything while driving. I have personally witnessed the following activities performed by a (presumably) sober adult, driving a vehicle at ~70 mph on I-75 south in Atlanta:

        1) Playing the the flute. The driver had both hands on the flute, with sheet music propped up on the wheel. He was steering the car with his knees.

        2) Shaving one's head. This man was peering into his rear view mirror, head lathered with shaving cream, shaving his head with a STRAIGHT RAZOR.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:36PM (#34274126)

    So, if you're being followed by a suspicious person, and you want to call for help, you're out of luck because some douchebag like LaHood decided that you're not capable of exercising your own judgement!

    Or, if you crash your car, but not hard enough to disable the jammer, you're fucked because you can't call 911.

    Why the FUCK is this guy getting paid by the taxpayers?

    • by MarkGriz ( 520778 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:57PM (#34274590)

      Settle down all you knee-jerkers, that's not actually what he said []

  • by the_rajah ( 749499 ) * on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:36PM (#34274136) Homepage
    Just disable all cars...

    Ray LaHood is an idiot, BTW.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Just disable all cars...

      LaHood is working on it:

      On February 3, 2010, LaHood was criticized for advice he was asked to give while testifying before a congressional committee regarding Toyota's recall of 2.3 million vehicles due to sudden acceleration, wherein he suggested Toyota owners stop driving their cars.

      Actually, he should have said, "People who don't know how to drive their cars, should not drive their cars." Putting the accelerator pedal so close to the brake pedal is obviously a design error for the intellectually challenged, who will confuse the two and blame the car manufacturer. The accelerator pedal should be on the driver's side; the brake pedal on the passenger's side.

      Dumb-ass Toyota driver: "I've got my foot pushed down to the floor, but the car is not stopping!"


    • He's an idiot? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wiredog ( 43288 )

      Because he said [] "you have to have people take personal responsibility " and " there will never be a technological device that imparts common sense when it comes to safe driving" ? That's idiotic?

  • Dumb (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ziktar ( 196669 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:38PM (#34274166)

    Because there's never a reason that a passenger would want to take a phone call. Or for a driver to call 911 for any reason...

  • Looks like I'll be keeping this 2003 VW a little longer. Thanks for saving me from that future car payment Ray.

  • won't happen (Score:4, Insightful)

    by perotbot ( 632237 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:39PM (#34274188) Journal
    GM makes too much money from OnStar and Ford's "Sync" also uses cell phone tech. also "can't call 911 when car jacked and trapped in trunk stories" will be hot news items....
  • Billboards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:39PM (#34274192)
    Does this mean we can get rid of Billboards and any advertisements visible from the road too? Their SOLE purpose is to make you look at them instead of the road. They are the purest example of distracted driving.
  • I doubt it would be very difficult to remove the power source from any scrambling device on my own car.
  • This makes me sad. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by orphiuchus ( 1146483 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:40PM (#34274204)
    I'm sad that we cant trust people not to drive out into traffic while talking on a cell phone, and I'm sad that we are so afraid of accepting that risk as a society that we may pass laws like this. This is the question that I feel we need to answer before we keep doing stuff like this: If this saves 500 lives a year, is it worth inconveniencing 400 million people? 50 lives? 5? 1?
  • so what kind of range are we talking here, jamming phones on the sidewalks and further in from the street where there happen to be driving cars by ? Could be fun, on the otherhand not having to navivate around people talking away on their phone, and ignore people around might be concideret a bonus.
  • Accidents, etc (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mistiry ( 1845474 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:41PM (#34274226)
    Wow... What if I get in a crash? What if I'm on the road for business and there is an emergency at home? What if I have a medical emergency and have to pull over? What if I see a fire on the side of the road and need to report it (this has happened to me twice)? What if I'm pulled over and searched illegally or for some reason need to call my lawyer? What if there's a National Emergency and Mr. President is in his limo? Oh wait...they're the government, how foolish of me to think they'd be bound by the same laws as Joe Citizen.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by zmollusc ( 763634 )

      Well duh! Periodically accelerate to 100mph, then stick it into neutral and switch the engine off. Check your phone while coasting. If you crash due to steering lock/no servo brakes/no power steering, you can use your phone to call for help.

  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <> on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:41PM (#34274228) Homepage Journal

    So, a politician thinks that it's important for both your next automobile and phone to be DRM-locked, so that your phone will only work when the passenger is operating it (verified by some sort of computer vision, eh), or your phone will disable itself when it senses it's moving at vehicle speed, but only in a passenger automobile, not a train or bus.


    Right after that, we'll get DRM-locked homes to protect us from all sorts of bad stuff: the wrong people having sex, etc.

    I really don't think so. If the Secretary of Transportation wants to work on something good for safety, self-driving automobiles are much more likely to 1) work and 2) save lives.

  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:41PM (#34274232) Homepage Journal
    Wait, isn't the Register the UK version of the National Enquirer? Isn't the like taking an Onion article seriously?
  • Will this jamming technology stop you from calling for help after an accident? Will you have to get out of your car to make a call if your car breaks down? How about calling the police when you see a crime or a reckless driver? Is it incompatible with OnStar, LoJack, and other auto tracking devices? Will it break GPS navigation? If jamming phones becomes mandatory, will all existing cars have to be retrofitted to stay street legal?

    Despite the transportation secretary's wet dreams, this will never, ever

  • and I'd like to know if this disabling happens when you get in the car, start it or put the car in gear. If you're in an accident, wouldn't you want you phone to work to call help?

  • by Gorkamecha ( 948294 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:42PM (#34274254)
    Seriously, it seems to me the #1 cause of accidents is the bag of meat behind the wheel. Automate the whole damn system. It would help cut traffic problems as well. Sure the system might flip out now and then and a few hundred people could die, but really, it would still be less then the number of people who get killed on the road in any given month.
  • Neat! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zmollusc ( 763634 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:42PM (#34274260)

    Pry the black box out of a vehicle and stick it in your pocket with a battery and you won't have to put up with idiots shouting into their cellphones in your train carriage/bus/cinema/restaurant.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sleepy ( 4551 )

      You can legally block signals on your own property, but you have to do it passively so as to not affect the property of others.

      Courts have ruled against jamming. Fine.

      But the wording of the court decisions and FCC regulations do not prohibit you from building structures which degrade or -passively- block cell signals.
      Thick walls containing lots of rebar will block signals, but are not always practical on a train car. :-)

      There's nothing illegal about painting walls using paint with a high concentration of me

  • Most of the ways I've seen discussed to do this are with speed sensors in the phone. That means if you are moving faster than x speed your phone won't work. The end result of this is that not only can you not use your phone when driving, your passengers can't use it. You also can't use it on a train, a completely passive activity.

    People will find ways to use their phones. All these bans do is make them be more discrete about it. When will politicians learn you can't legislate away stupidity.

  • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:46PM (#34274346) Homepage

    Why is it, when technology has both a useful and an annoying potential use, it's 10 times more likely the annoying use gets implemented?

    For example, my car has a seat belt light that comes on if there is a front-seat passenger who is not wearing a seat belt. No passenger, no light. My car also has a passenger-side airbag, which is disabled if there is no passenger.

    But for the built-in nav system, the controls are disabled even when there is a passenger.

    This makes no sense to me. What's the use of having a second person in the car if they can't act as navigator?

    Sensors could easily be built in to the steering wheel to enable all interactive systems when the driver has both hands on the wheel.

    I get that I shouldn't talk on my cell phone or text while driving, and I don't. But why shouldn't my passenger be able to make a call or look for the nearest gas station on the GPS?

    This is just one more thing that will have to be cracked.

  • by Quila ( 201335 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:47PM (#34274376)

    When the first person trapped in a car dies because his cell phone wouldn't work and he couldn't call for help?

  • Hello? 911 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:47PM (#34274378)

    So what happens when I'm in a car accident, bleeding to death, and reach for my cell phone and find out it doesn't work because some paper pusher decided I had to be *out* of the car to use my phone... Do I just die, content in the knowledge that it really was for the best?

  • by guacamole ( 24270 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @05:52PM (#34274484)

    I am about to buy a stereo unit for my car with bluetooth phone receiver. The phone will connect wirelessly to my stereo allow me to be on the cell phone completely hands free. I will be no more distracted than any other driver who is talking to his passengers. How is this dangerous, and why does the government want to disable this tech innovation?

    • by D Ninja ( 825055 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:39PM (#34275380)

      I will be no more distracted than any other driver who is talking to his passengers.

      Actually, this is not true.

      The problem with talking and driving is NOT the hands free aspect. The real problem is with the way the human mind works. When you are talking to someone who is physically in your car, your brain does not need to do work to "see" that person. You don't have to imagine what they are doing or how they are looking because they are sitting right next to you. This is true EVEN IF YOU NEVER LOOK AT THEM. When you are on a call phone, part of your brain responsible for visual aspects (AKA looking at the road) is now occupied. That's why you get the "blind driver effect" in which people who have been talking on their phones don't remember driving from point A to point B (or they blackout on parts). So, bluetooth does not do anything to help you overcome this problem.

      The other aspect of talking on a cell phone is that the other person can't see what is going on around you. If someone is in a car with you, they can see that traffic has come to a screeching halt, or that someone has cut you off, or whatever the case may be and they can appropriately shut up or say something - fully understanding that you need to focus. The same doesn't happen on the cell phone.

      Now, don't get me wrong - I want the government to be hands off. I especially dislike it when they try to solve problems with technology that are better solved through other means. And, other /. posts have pointed out the various areas where there could be problems with having this type of system in place. But, it is very far from the truth to say that bluetooth is a "better alternative."

      As others have pointed out, the real solution is using common sense and actually following it.

  • Good idea. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ( 142825 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:01PM (#34274688) Homepage

    We should ban passengers in cars because passengers can distract drivers.

    We should ban putting items on the car seat because if you stop sharply, the items can move and that would distract the driver.

    We should ban car horns because someone blowing a horn can distract other drivers.

    We should ban sirens on emergency vehicles because the sirens would distract drivers from the road in front of them.

    We should ban dihydrogenmonoxide because it can distract drivers when it spills inside the car, when it gets splashed on cars, etc. (I'm ignoring that it is a major component of acid raid and that it is found in a high percentage of cancer cells.)

  • by ciggieposeur ( 715798 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:05PM (#34274776)

    Imagine every car has a scrambler, but by default is turned off. The only time it's activated is when the police send a signal, and of course they would only do that when they see someone driving recklessly, or there is a lot of traffic congestion requiring better attention from drivers, or...

    Until the police figure out that by killing cell phones they also prevent most people from recording their illegal behavior, and it's back to the days of cops murdering people with impunity.

  • by Tjp($)pjT ( 266360 ) on Thursday November 18, 2010 @06:11PM (#34274872)
    OnStar no longer functions.
    After the accident I am trapped in my car and can't call for assistance. Really hurts when black ice happens and I slide down the embankment. I'll slowly die without phone service.
    I park next to an emergency services vehicle and kill his cell call back to the station. Some smaller jurisdictions rely on mobile phones.
    My little girl is trapped in the car trunk of her kidnapper. She can't phone out ... (People have self-rescued via cell phone from vehicles.)

    Just saying this needs to be well thought out...

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