Nanny State Czar Continues Anti-Cell Phone Crusade

Cell phone users, beware! Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s crusade against distracted driving, which includes consideration of an outright ban on cell phone use in vehicles, is back in the news.

Recently, the Department of Transportation and Consumer Reports launched a “partnership,” that — with the help of educators — aims to inform teens about the dangers of texting and talking on cell phones while driving. The campaign will include Public Service Announcements to be aired nationwide, explaining the consequences of such activity. Considering the dismal record enjoyed by our public education system in actually educating students about anything, one wonders whether the program will achieve any level of success.

Meanwhile, Consumer Reports released a poll revealing – not surprisingly – that a majority of young drivers talk on cell phones while driving; 63 percent of those under the age of 30. Thirty percent acknowledge texting while driving. The numbers for older drivers are much lower, with 41 percent admitting to talking on the phone during their commute, while only nine percent acknowledge texting.

With the hyperbole that has become the hallmark of his tenure at the Transportation Department, LaHood recently told the Associated Press, “distracted driving has become a deadly epidemic on America’s roads.”

All of us, especially perhaps parents, should take an active role in urging drivers – and especially teen drivers – to be mindful of distractions caused not only by use of cell phones or texting devices while driving, but all manner of activities people pursue behind the wheel. However, forcing the American people to conform to behavior determined by a government bureaucrat to be in our best interest, is not the solution; in fact, it is not the job of the federal government in the first place. But, tell that to LaHood.

During his time in the Obama Administration, LaHood – a former Republican Congressman from Illinois – has employed his position as a bully pulpit to target cell phone users; even though studies from the Highway Loss Data Institute show that cell phone and texting bans do not necessarily decrease car accidents.

LaHood, however, continues to press his agenda, as the de facto Nanny State Czar for the Obama Administration. You can be sure we haven’t seen the last of this plan to tell American drivers they can no longer use the cell phone or other electronic communication device they paid for and own, while driving in their own cars, on roads paid for with their tax collars.

by Bob Barr — The Barr Code

71 comments Add your comment


March 25th, 2011
4:34 pm

@Dave: When you begin with “just another standard obnoxious lefty that launches into personal attacks on anyone who disagrees with him,” I know you’re a troll. No one could be that blindly hypocritical.

But despite my “don’t feed the trolls” policy, I do want to address one point you made (perhaps accidentally). You say that the private sector should cover injuries — that we should allow tort law, rather than criminal law, to cover public safety.

So how long would that radical experiment take to break down? Oh, about five minutes, by my watch. It would last right up until a poor man got drunk and ran over a rich man. This act — which would not be criminal, in your world, but rather only tortious — would of course bankrupt the poor man. Yep, he’d be out $50, his wrecked car, and the lint in his pocket. Oh, I suppose if he ever sobered up and got a good-paying job, he’d feel the pinch — but otherwise he’d be off scot-free. Because this man is what we call “judgment proof,” he’d quite literally have a license to kill.

Of course, you COULD require him to carry insurance — but whoa whoa whoa, what’s the government doing requiring someone to meet some “insurance mandate” before they drive? Freedom alert, freedom alert! Call the Tea Party, organize a rally. Or you could require him to be sober before driving, and impose criminal penalties for refusal — but if we do that, we’re practically Josef Stalin!

You get where I’m going with this. The private sector sounds like a panacea to people raised on a diet of wild, anarchist bile — and there are things that the civil courts do well. (You…do realize that if you want to enforce your system, you’ll need government courts and sheriffs, right?)

But there are also things that require government — and tort law will never be able to replace criminal law for things like regulation of traffic rules. And just as criminal law prohibits speeding and drunk driving, it can take reasonable steps to ban other types of dangerous driving behaviors.

Now get back under your bridge.


March 25th, 2011
4:39 pm

@Dave (4:14): Yes, the government has drawn an appropriate balance in speed limits. Also, it is seeking an appropriate balance for cell phone usage — reflecting the input of studies and the opinions of people like yourself.

A tragedy this is not.


March 25th, 2011
4:42 pm


Hey retard – I never said requiring insurance or having laws against robbery, rape and murder were bad ideas. There’s a place for government, and there are things that only government can do (national defense, justice system, etc).

That’s a far cry from having some puffed-up bureaucrat tell me when to talk on the phone, how many vegetables to eat or what color to paint my living room. The last 3 fall into a category you’ve probably never heard of before called “stuff that doesn’t affect anyone else”.

And before you get on your high horse about “other types of dangerous driving behaviors”, why don’t you take a moment to explain how “distracted by a cell phone” is any different from “distracted by your kids” or distracted by your radio” or “distracted by your cheeseburger” or “distracted by your makeup” or “distrated by your friends in the back seat”.

Unless you can, then maybe you should think a bit harder before telling other people what behaviors YOU think are ‘unacceptable’.


March 25th, 2011
5:28 pm

@Dave: Troll harder — I don’t think you’ve quite got the knack. A good troll is funny, or interesting, or at least maddening. Saying stupid things insultingly…meh. I suppose everyone needs a hobby — and at least with this one you’re interacting with people (your counselor would be proud). But I don’t think you’re funny or smart enough for it.

To your “arguments.” You can’t do things while driving that significantly endanger others — whether it’s drinking or smoking pot or talking on a cell phone. Behaviors that have been shown to significantly raise the risk of deadly accidents are illegal, because they’re not “stuff that doesn’t affect anyone else.” They’re “stuff that can kill someone else.” You want to do those things anyways? Tough. Move somewhere else.

Ok, enough feeding an obvious troll.


March 25th, 2011
6:27 pm

I want to be protected from people with screaming kids in the back seat. Ban all kids in cars.


March 25th, 2011
7:21 pm

The people who want to text and drive or talk on their cellphone and drive should get their own lane for only them to share with those who want to drink and drive. The single lane could be used for travel in both directions, with high concrete walls to protect these freedom loving Americans from the nefarious Nanny-staters. God bless them freedom loving Americans, every one!


March 26th, 2011
1:00 am

It could be incorporated into law that even having any kind of electronic device in a vehicle would be illegal but the distracted drivers would just find something else to be distracted about; just like before these devices were invented. The people that were easily distracted by a miniskirt or shirtless boy-wonder would be weaving down the roads again. It’s a matter of priorities. Have drivers get that straight and there will be less problems. Priority 1) Maintain control of the vehicle! Priority 2) Maintain control of the vehicle! And so forth. Continue this line of thought until the time comes that when a person is talking on the phone, they’re barely paying attention to the call and would either drop it in the passenger seat or throw it in the passenger floorboard as I have done several times. When conditions require total concentration and probable evasive actions, the call has just ended (at least temporarily). .. There will always be defective drivers. Get used to it. B~)

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March 26th, 2011
6:08 am

“You can be sure we haven’t seen the last of this plan to tell American drivers they can no longer use the cell phone or other electronic communication device they paid for and own, while driving in their own cars, on roads paid for with their tax collars.”

So, Barr, can I assume you also think that people have a right to drive down the road shooting a gun just because they paid for and own it and their taxes paid for the road? Just trying to follow your logic.


March 26th, 2011
8:02 am

One thing about driving while distracted is the effect that drivers have on each other. One thing that distracts me is how other drivers lean into turns. Even if the road curves just a little bit, they lean over like it’s tryouts for the Jamaican Bobsled Team. If it’s a couple sitting cozy-close on the front benchseat of a pickup truck, then the two will lean in tandum. What do these lovers do when they drive in a subdivision? “Put on a crash helmet, Martha, it’s a cul-de-sac”!

Dr. Pangloss

March 26th, 2011
10:33 am

March 26th, 2011
6:08 am

“You can be sure we haven’t seen the last of this plan to tell American drivers they can no longer use the cell phone or other electronic communication device they paid for and own, while driving in their own cars, on roads paid for with their tax collars.”

So, Barr, can I assume you also think that people have a right to drive down the road shooting a gun just because they paid for and own it and their taxes paid for the road? Just trying to follow your logic.
Of course, Bob thinks that. He thinks anything is okay if a gun is involved.


March 26th, 2011
11:32 am

A friend of mine put it thus: “personal rights of any individual end when they infringe upon the rights of another.” which I agree with.

The fact is, Mr Barr and all others who think this is a witch hunt or going overboard, you are upset because someone would dare ask you to put down your PDA/Phone/Mobile TV/Texting device/MP3 player/internet portal while you are driving, so as to put the people in front of you and around you at less risk that you will be distracted when MY kid or loved one happens to be in front of your Esclade. Are you kidding me?

If that is your line of reasoning then consider this: let the pilot flying your next flight take off and land while sending an “o-so important” text or updating their facebook status; allow the school bus driver who is driving YOUR kid to school casually dial their bff while bombing down the expressway; allow the dentist who is drilling your tooth to also have an intense conversation with a family member on their hands free device; or allow YOUR 16 yr old the opportunity to free talk/text/watch VAmpire diaries on their 4G phone that you got them for their birthday. Don’t worry: none of these situations could POSSIBLY produce a PREVENTABLE death or injury.

Oh, and when you go to the funeral of someone you love who has been killed by one of these ridiculous reasons and somone like you, Mr Barr, is calmly waving their flag of freedom in the background, consider this: you consider just about anything that you do in a car an inalienable right.

Bottom line: if you don’t trust ME to do it safely, then why should I trust you? P.S. the annual deaths caused by these distractions are real, flesh and blood Americans too and they did not have to die. Why don’t you point to the next 5000 or so that will die this year and give them a heads up that you REALLY need to make a call in your car.


March 26th, 2011
11:37 am


March 26th, 2011
11:56 am

A friend of mine said this: “Personal rights of any individual end when they infringe upon the rights of another.” which I agree with. Mr Barr sees this differently, I believe. In his mind- nothing that you may want to do while operating a car should be illegal. Just look at what your phone does:

It is an MP3 player, an internet portal, a Facebook status updater, an email client, a mobile television, -oh ya- and a phone. So which of these are we talking about Mr Barr? Do these studies that look at the most common uses of the device (talking and texting) which overwhelmingly support the idea that they do distract and they do cause needless injury/harm/death each year on the roads become overshadowed by the few that may contradict them? And speaking of that contradiction, if you cause a serious crash yourself while talking or texting on your phone would you hop out of your car & offer that information to the other drivers? Probably not.

Take it a step further and consider this: is it ok for the pilot of your next flight to talk & text while taking off and landing the plane you are on? Is it ok for the person driving the bus that your kid is on? How about the for the trucker who is on a 14hr haul and who is pointed towards the intersection you are entering with your baby in the back seat? Should your dentist be drilling on your teeth while having a rather intense conversation with a family member on his hands free device?

You can pretend that 5000 humans or so cease to exist each year because of people who have to take that call or want to text their bff- but you would be wrong. Maybe you need to stand at the grave of your son, your daughter, your spouse while you wave your flag of freedom above them and say, “We did it for the next call. Good job.” Or maybe you need to understand that if you are a responsible adult, then be responsible for the 1-2 tons of steel and glass that you pilot every day and pay attention to that; not the crap that can wait until you have pulled over.

Dr. Pangloss

March 26th, 2011
4:28 pm

Dave, you’ve fallen into the imperfect world fallacy. Things aren’t perfect; therefore, this particular incredibly cruddy thing has to go on.


March 27th, 2011
4:30 am

The irony of this story is the fact that just 2 days ago I literally had to drive into the emergancy lane on 285 because of some about coming right over onto me.

That person, was on a cell phone.

90% of the time I want the government out of my life, but in this they’re doing what’s truly in the best interest of everyone who gets behind the wheel.

Rightwing Troll

March 27th, 2011
9:59 am

In this case it’s less about the government protecting you from yourself, and more about the government protecting me from you. Some people are just too stupid to realize that they CAN’T do two things at once and become a danger on the roads.


March 27th, 2011
11:56 am

Bob Barr was using reverse psychology, you morons. He’s baiting you trolls into making fools of yourselves, (even though that boat has sailed).

Read his article again. He’s not that subtle, but you mutants are that stupid.



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1:25 pm

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March 29th, 2011
6:11 am

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driving is a privilege not a right

March 31st, 2011
10:16 am

The problem is HORRIBLE driver’s ed. They teach answers to a test….they do NOT teach HOW TO DRIVE. Too many people don’t take it seriously enough, and while I have no problem with them killing themselves behind the wheel, I take issue when they take out OTHER PEOPLE or their own family because they think they are invincible and own the road. We need to adopt tougher driving test standards and more driving instruction. Not everybody who has a car should have one. If you can afford to buy tires with actual tread on them….you need a bike. If you can’t afford to repair the headlight that got knocked out when you hit the bollard at KFC drive-thru… need a MARTA pass. Driving is a PRIVILEGE….not a right. Sadly the police are too inept to punish bad drivers and allow way too many sensible drivers to get hurt or killed. But goshdarnit the revenue from handing out tickets means safety! *eyeroll*