The United Kingdom government is considering a measure to require prepackaged software technology to disable cell phone operation in cars, removing personal responsibility or privacy rights from the equation while adding a component of Big Brother in the name of public safety.
It’s already illegal to use any hand-held device for talking or texting while driving in the U.K., although many motorists there apparently ignore the law, which is why authorities are evidently seeking a way to jam cell phones altogether.
The only exceptions are for calling the British equivalent of 911 in case of an emergency or when a car is parked.
According to a 2014 report, distracted driving accidents were already on track to be the major cause of death on U.K. roads and to exceed drunk-driving-related fatalities.
Here in the U.S., the laws aren’t as strict as in Britain, but about 3,000 deaths and 431,000 injuries were attributed to distracted driver-related car crashes in 2014, according to the latest statistics published by the U.S. government’s Distraction.gov website. Moreover, 10 percent of all drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the accidents. Motorists in the age-20 cohort constituted 38 percent of the distracted drivers using cellphones when fatal crashes occurred, the website added.
Distracted walking is also an increasing danger, Natural News previously explained. Texting while walking is a major contributor to the deaths of pedestrians in traffic accidents, according to an August 2015 report by the U.S. Governors Highway Safety Association.
The Independent of London explains what regulators have in mind for smartphones, or what they call mobile phones in the U.K.
“Mobile phones could be set to automatically stop working in moving cars, making it impossible for drivers to text, call, or send emails at the wheel. The Department for Transport (DfT) is reportedly considering implementing new technology that would block phone signal for drivers. The software would make mobiles virtually useless by disabling any function that requires internet access or connection to a telephone network.”
Government officials plan to sit down with car makers and handset manufacturers in 2017 to explore various options, one of which could be a “drive safe” app on phones (equivalent to airplane mode) to disable distractions such as incoming calls, voicemail, texts, and email. According to The Car Connection, this kind of app in theory is a good idea but “in practice, it’s unlikely that consumers will use the software unless it’s automated or at least easy to activate.”
A new survey suggests that a majority of U.K. drivers are actually okay with potential regulations that would allow government to impose restrictions on cell phone use in cars. “Two-thirds of motorists think the Government should use technology to disable mobile phones in cars, research reveals. Half admit they cannot resist looking at their device in stationary or slow-moving traffic. And terrifyingly, reading texts or emails and checking social media are now more common than taking or making a phone call,” The Sun of London claimed.
If distracted driving accidents continue to rise, the next step — requiring automakers to install jamming devices in every new car off the assembly line — “would be a fairly foolproof way of addressing the problem. That said, many would see such an extreme move as a massive overreach by the government and an invasion of civil rights,” The Car Connection added.
The overall goal, according to one official, is to render smartphone use behind the wheel “as unacceptable as not wearing a seat belt or [drunk] driving.”
For better or worse, in general the mere threat of government intrusion is often enough for industry to make changes.