Transportation Secretary LaHood Won’t Back Ban on Phones for Drivers image

In a public split, transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sharply disagreed with a proposal by the top U.S. transportation safety investigator for a ban on hands-free calling while driving.

“The problem is not hands-free,” LaHood told reporters at the department’s headquarters, according to a Detroit News report. “That is not the big problem in America.”

Still, LaHood extends an olive branch to NTSB chairwoman Debbie Hersman, saying, “Anybody that wants to join the chorus against distracted driving, welcome aboard,” but continuing that “If other people want to work on hands-free, so be it.”

NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman has said the rationale being the safety board’s recommendation is the act of talking on the phone itself causes the distractiont.

Driving is, indeed, a serious activity that requires all of your attention. According to the Department of Transportation’s December 8 release, distracted driving caused 3,092 fatalities in 2010.

The National Transportation Safety Board last week asked states to ban cellphones while driving in response to a deadly collision in Missouri last year that the agency blamed in part on a driver who was texting while driving.

However, Officer Tom Nichols of the Port St. Lucie, Fla., police said a law written like the NTSB suggests would be difficult to enforce because so many variables would be at play.

“If you identify someone who has a hands-free set hooked up to their ear that doesn’t mean they are talking on the phone,” he said. “They could be talking to a passenger. They could be talking to a child in the back. They could be singing.”