America is in debt past its eyeballs. Unemployment remains stuck near double digits. Small and large businesses, unions and insurers are clamoring for Obamacare waivers in droves. Jihadists are making a mockery of homeland security. And border chaos reigns. So, what's one of the Obama administration's top domestic policy agenda items this month? Combating distracted drivers.
What? You missed the Million Anti-Distracted Drivers Protest March on Washington and the Great Grassroots Groundswell for federal intervention on our highways and byways? Don't worry. You weren't the only one.
Making the cable TV rounds to unveil a public service announcement campaign against "epidemic" cell phone use and texting on the road, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood revealed bizarre and alarming plans on Wednesday to install devices in cars that would block a driver's ability to communicate.
"There's a lot of technology out there now that can disable phones, and we're looking at that," he threatened. LaHood -- a liberal Republican and pork-addicted Chicago crony who embodies Obama "bipartisanship" -- envisions centralized government mechanisms to shut off commuters' BlackBerries and iPhones.
And that's just the start. "We need to do a lot more if we're going to save lives," LaHood vowed, while paying obligatory lip service to encouraging "personal responsibility." Will the cell phone banners ban radios, GPS devices, makeup and fast food in cars next? All are also listed as causes of distracted driver-induced accidents.
Any death due to such reckless behavior is tragic. But by "saving lives," what cell phone czar LaHood really means is "controlling lives." There are already 30 states with laws in place regulating drivers' cell phone and/or texting habits. The District of Columbia and Guam also passed bans. The safety benefits of such laws are in dispute.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety examined insurance claims and driving habits in Louisiana, Washington, Minnesota and California, which all passed texting bans two years ago. Its study found that when compared to neighboring states that had not yet banned texting while driving (Arkansas, Texas and Mississippi), the no-texting states actually reported higher accident rates among young drivers -- while the states with no bans maintained constant accident rates. Safety officials theorized that drivers in no-texting states may have adjusted their habits to hide their cell phone use from visual detection by police -- incentivizing even riskier behavior.