At a Department of Transportation press conference this morning, Secretary Ray LaHood tried to reassure the public on his initiative to end cell phone related distracted driving.
"We are here today to affirm loud and clear that we are keeping the pedal to the metal despite of a new effort to rile up the electronics industry and derail our coalition," LaHood said.
The department came under fire last week when industry lobbyists accused the Department's campaign of going too far, putting the industry in jeopardy by affecting future sales. The fear is that some states' legislation may eventually restrict hands-free devices such as Bluetooth and in-car, hands-free technologies. Currently, 30 states outlaw hand-held-device use while driving, but still allow hands-free.
But during questioning, LaHood was caught in a hard spot when asked how the federal government feels about the use of hands-free devices while driving. Several interest leaders, who joined LaHood this morning, pressed hard for a ban on all electronic devices, including hands-free. One of whom, referenced 11 studies in which said the level of distraction one has while using a hand-held device is the same as a hands-free device.
"I think these distractions can be deadly," he said, expressing his personal opinion, but when pressed on how the federal government feels, he fired back saying, "I know what you are trying to get to ... and I have gone as far as I can with your question."
Although the federal government cannot mandate on this issue, the DOT has created model legislation for state governments, which does not prohibit hands-free devices.
*** UPDATE *** Thirty states, Washington, D.C. and Guam have banned texting, and there are seven states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands that have banned all handhelds.