POLL: Should We Just Ban All Car Conversations?

A leading Bay Area newspaper columnist suggests we should go beyond present laws, and ban all vehicular cellular conversations.


Einstein says we should stop.

A leading Bay Area columnist who writes a weekly tech article for the San Francisco Chronicle, David Einstein feels it's time to eliminate the ability of drivers in cars and trucks to carry on phone conversations while driving - even by using the legally allowed, hands-free bluetooth devices.

In his May 14 column published on Monday, Einstein is asked to recommend a bluetooth headset by a reader who wants to stay within the law, but also wants to talk while driving. Often in his columns, Einstein makes personal recommendations of specific items in the tech world, be it computers, routers, apps, or in this case, a bluetooth headset.

But Einstein pulls a abrupt u-turn and applies the brakes to this driver:

"Sorry. In the past, I've answered questions about hands-free calling while driving, which is mandated under the law in California and elsewhere. However, recent evidence suggests that hands-free calling may be just as dangerous as using a mobile phone the regular way.

In December, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on all mobile-phone use while driving, and I can't disagree. It's true that texting and dialing are the most distracting activities associated with mobile phones. But it's also hard to focus on the road while having a phone conversation. It isn't what's in your hand that causes accidents, it's what's in your head.

Hands-free advocates, including car companies that put the technology into new models, argue it's safer than holding a phone. But that doesn't mean it's safe. My advice: Keep the phone in your pocket or bag until you're parked."

Is Einstein correct, that it's what's in your head, and not your hand, that causes accidents? Have we been too liberal in creating laws that allow cell phone conversations in our vehicles? Are we so far down the road that we'll never be able to turn back?

Or, can the case be made that work efficiency for many increases with the ability to travel and talk. Think of the traveling salesperson; are they hindered if we remove their ability to talk to clients when driving to appointments?

What are your thoughts? We'd like to know. Leave a comment for us, then vote in our poll below.

Antonio Catpo May 20, 2012 at 04:40 PM
You are right, Tom ... and i'm sure car companies will keep adding more and more gadgets to convince people to buy their brand
Bob May 20, 2012 at 04:40 PM
I think the hand free laws is a bit ridiculous myself. The texting while driving should come with lose of license in my opinion. Honestly the phone calls have never been a distraction to me. Then again I am old enough to remember CB radios which I think are still legal. If you want to ban true distractions keep children out of cars. The only bigger distraction I have ever had in a car was a cat that got out it's crate while I was driving the speed limit on 101. I learned that cats can defy gravity and run on the ceiling in between scratching and clawing at the driver while trying to escape a moving vehicle
Dianna Taylor May 20, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Well The reason I think many drivers are the way they are is that they are not only multitasking but not paying attention to the laws like looking in both directions when they stop to see if there are walkers waiting to cross the street and just speeding ahead and I mean speeding.We do have drivers that have poor vision! I know because I almost got killed missed by inches crossing Millbrae Ave on a green light when out of nowhere ac car shot by me missing by inches! Luckily a poilce car was at the corner and the driver was stopped .Needless to say the driver got a piece of my mind!!! Having said that, being a walker I take my life in my hands crossing the streets in Millbrae.Need anither patrol car to ticket these people.
JDavis May 20, 2012 at 05:43 PM
That is funny Bob. One reason to be thankful for my allergy to cats. ;) Seriously though, I think the focus should remain on citations and fines for distracted driving...for any reason. If whatever distraction is compromising the driver from focusing on the task at hand...driving safely and responsibly if not defensively (how come we don't talk about that concept so much anymore?)...then that driver needs to be cited. Period. When the safety of others is put at risk because a driver is unable to manage the primary task at hand, then they should be fined for it with an eventual suspension or revocation of their license. Driving is a privilege not a right so for those that don't value that privilege and risking others' lives, there needs to be consequences. If that conversation, that search for the nearest gas station, that screaming child in the back seat, that aversion to driving on the freeway, that cup of coffee or anything else compromises someone's ability to drive well then I for one would like that driver to at least take a minute to pull off the road and take care of whatever is distracting them...even if only to call a cab to pick them up because they can't manage that 2000 pound metal thing with wheels. Please!
Rich Symmons May 20, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Multitasking is a fact of life, driving life included. Shall we outlaw listening to the radio? Listening to CD's? Singing while driving? Looking at a navigation device? Eating while driving? Drinking a soda or coffee while driving? At some point we must realize that driving, just driving, is a boring but complicated task. While FULL attention is ideal, it's not all that practical. Major distractions, such as texting, should be not be allowed, obviously. Remember the case of kids driving while switching CD's in the player and killing passengers in their and other cars? I'm not certain you can prevent all forms of distractions, nor can you eliminate all auto crashes no matter how you create legislation. Acceptance of hands-free devices seems to provide a balanced approach. Driving has inherent risks, many of which are not avoidable. It's hard to legislate against all forms of inattention while driving.
Dianna Taylor May 20, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Multitasking is a fact of life no question.Some are great at it and others are not .That is the problem.It is simple you need to pay attention.
Dianna Taylor May 20, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I agree with J Davis !!!! I have another question not related to driving but to cars . Why are some of them parked almost on the sidewalk on Hillcrest .When I walk up the street I have to walk around the car ON the road .Hillcrest is like freeway .
DanC May 20, 2012 at 06:37 PM
I agree with Rich. Each introduction of new technology has brought with it the concern and angst of well-intentioned people. When talkies were introduced in the late 1920's, studies showed an increase in juvenile delinquency...ban movies? When the automobile was introduced, deaths from accidents followed...bring back the horse? After spray paint was introduced graffiti ran rampant...remove spray paint from the shelves? After cellphones and texting were introduced erratic driving was no longer solely due to being inebriated...ban cellphones from cars? This kind of knee jerk reaction could never be enforced.
Dianna Taylor May 20, 2012 at 06:58 PM
You cannot ban cell phones from cars. They are needed for emergencies
Alicia May 20, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Why don't we just ban cars?
william west May 20, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I am over 70 and would like to weigh in on a comment made about older drivers not being able to take care of themselves and that association with this subject. I am not as quick or as agile as I once was, but I am able to drive a car safely and able to watch for those who choose to disobey speed limits and other laws. I have noticed that when a car in front of me is swerving, going slower than traffic, not paying attention to pedestrians, that about 90 % of those drivers are quite a bit younger than myself. I am not saying that age is a factor, but when someone posts something of that nature, he should have all the facts straight before he rants about a certain "group". Texting is dangerous no matter who does it and talking hands free is a hazard for those who are easily distracted. It is in all of our best interests that we not use the phone in the car unless it's absolutely necessary and then we should either be hands free or pull off the road.
Bill Baker May 20, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Good luck enforcing a ban on hands free phones. Bad drivers are the problem; not hands free phones. Raise the skill requirements for getting a license and you will reduce accidents.
Courtney Carreras May 20, 2012 at 10:19 PM
While I agree that of course not ALL older drivers are unsafe - there needs to be better control and acknowledgement of when a person reaches an age where they are no longer able to drive safely. Limited ability to turn all the way around to look before backing up, vision problems and just the inability to react quickly enough. I can't tell you how many times I cringed while watching my neighbor, well into her 80's, struggle to back out of her driveway and then crawl down the road towards Ralston. I feared for her and everyone else on the road.
Courtney Carreras May 20, 2012 at 10:21 PM
I agree. You can't legislate against stupidity, but you can improve driver training as well as enforcement of laws.
Dianna Taylor May 20, 2012 at 10:34 PM
I agree with Courtney and Bill.It really is all about focusing on driving and the skills in avoiding errors.I have a friend who chats up a storm and talks with her hands at times. Dangerous multitasking!!! So I have to tell her!
Ann Schneider May 20, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Fining someone after they've totaled the other person's car or caused injury or death doesn't do a think for the person who is now dead, or injured or have lost their car or other property.
Ann Schneider May 20, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Several years ago I had to get a commercial license so I could chaperone girl scouts. The test is much more difficult that for a regular license, both the written and the practicals (2 different practicals). The DMV takes points off for not checking side and rear view mirrors every 5 -10 seconds as well as other driving alert techniques. We would all benefit if all drivers were tested this rigorously and more frequently. With all the new drivers in my neighborhood, I never see them checking side or rear mirrors, so the chances of them hitting people increases nor are they courteous since they don't see anything except what is front of them. Then if you add a cellphone what you get is a swerving drivers who is completely oblivious to everything. Yes ban cell phone use, except for emergencies and require more frequent testing to remind drivers that it is a privilege not a right to drive. And darn it remind drivers to use their mirrors and when they hit someone or thing that they have to stop and take responsibility. 8 hit and runs in our one block in one year. Were the drivers on their phones, maybe, did they take responsibility, hell no.
Rosalinda Oropeza Randall May 20, 2012 at 11:56 PM
It comes down to awareness and consideration of others. No matter what laws you implement, unfortunately, you can't make a person become a considerate driver.
Antonio Catpo May 21, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Fining worked for me. I used to answer my phone while driving, (not many calls, maybe 4x/week) until CHP pulled me over and got a $160-ticket. Funny thing is the phone conversation lasted only 1 minute and 17 seconds.
Sarah May 21, 2012 at 01:26 AM
We survived before cell phones and will survive a drive without talking. It is dangerous and a nuisance.
Antonio Catpo May 21, 2012 at 01:45 AM
Sarah, yours is the best comment ever.
clint May 21, 2012 at 05:31 AM
What's next no talking to a passenger while driving, no more listening to your car radio while driving. I do agree with no texting and talking on your cell phone while driving!
dorothea May 21, 2012 at 02:37 PM
i agree with cris, the info cris has presented here is correct. the absentee talker holds your attention even when you know you must stop talking. a person in the car will shut up if they need to. if anybody thinks they can talk on the phone ,hand held or otherwise, they think wrong. and be honest people ,that conversation that you must have while driving....how important is it?
Ben Toy May 21, 2012 at 04:54 PM
One size fits all is a tough one in reference to humanity, but it has to be and that then boils down to the lowest denominator. As that is the way of it in our society Meaning that some are perfectly capable of multitasking without measurable degradation in their driving abilities....while others are close to their limits in stop and go without any other distraction or someone who does NOT care enough about their driving nor surrounds Those last two persons are what our society's laws address. I have a hands free specifically to be available for a parent in Hospice that I'm caring for 24/7, Otherwise I DO NOT wish to have my hands free on while driving.
Lin May 21, 2012 at 05:22 PM
More government intervention on our behaviors? This is the most ludricous recommendation yet. A conversation in a car is not and should not be compared to using a cell phone.
TGD May 21, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Since most calls are just idle BS anyhow, just turn the thing off and learn to use your turn signal.
Kathie Fosgett May 21, 2012 at 06:33 PM
I agree....I would like to know, though, why we saw TWO Sheriff's Deputies driving their cars/vans in downtown San Carlos on Saturday morning (near Hometown Days) holding cell phones up to their ears while they were driving through heavy traffic with tons of pedestrians - many of them children. Are they immune from the 'hands free' law?
TGD May 21, 2012 at 06:55 PM
Police, fire and other rescue/enforcement agencies are exempt. I believe some commercial truck drivers are also.
K May 22, 2012 at 12:07 AM
I see people talking on their phones in their cars all the time. I think there is distraction in trying to conceal it. Where we live, the ocean beauty seems to be the largest distraction. I've seen many of the accidents on the one near the slide and surfers beach that show it. The current law seems sufficient, if not enforced...
K May 22, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Sorry, just realized this is Millbrae, but you get what I mean, there are many distractions...


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