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The next prohibitionists are cell phone prohibitionists

And they're modeled explicitly after Mothers against Drunk Driving.

From today's Washington Post, "28 percent of accidents involve talking, texting on cellphones":

Because of the extent of the problem, federal transportation officials unveiled a organization Tuesday, patterned after Mothers Against Drunk Driving, that will combat driver cellphone use.

The group is called FocusDriven, promoted now at a new government website -- www.distraction.gov. The DOT's news release describes the group as a "national non-profit," but it's difficult to detect any lines separating government, activist group, and lobbying outfit. The Post reports:

"It's hard because everyone's addicted to their cellphone," said FocusDriven's president, Jennifer Smith, a Texan whose mother was killed by a man who ran a red light while talking on his cellphone. "That's where we come in. We put a real, human face to it. We're going to put the pressure on legislatures." [our emphasis, as below]

And here's where the fervent simply ignore issues of self-incrimination and the dangers of ever-expanding government power.

Smith said law enforcement needs stronger laws and better tools to enforce them. "Using a subpoena to get cellphone records has got to be a standard procedure," she said. "Perhaps cars should have a data recorder, like [an airplane's] crash recorder to use in these cases."

A ban on cell phones in vehicles is clearly the ultimate goal. Indeed, the FocusDriven.org website declares the group to be, "Advocates for Cell-Free Driving," and the WaPo story quotes MADD's executive director, Chuck Hurley, saying, "The main reason people talk on their cellphones is because they can. Eventually, [signal blocking] technology will address that."

When the prohibitionists take the wheel, liberty and accountability get shoved out the door.

UPDATE (3:40 p.m.): Also part of the campaign is the National Safety Council, which on Tuesday celebrated the anniversary of its ban the phone campaign: "As the National Safety Council celebrates the one year anniversary of its call for a total ban on cell phone use while driving, we look back at the amazing progress during the past year. This timeline marks critical events that helped bring attention to a behavior that's killing thousands of people each year."

(The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also promoting the group, and in earlier posts we had noted the new NHTSA administrator, David Strickland, is a former lobbyist for Association of Trial Lawyers of America, now American Association of Justice. However, this cell phone prohibition campaign began before his Dec. 24 Senate confirmation, and we don't immediately infer an interest in this effort from the plaintiff's bar.)

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.