New legislation proposed by US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood aims to elevate state bans on cellphone use while driving to the federal level, unifying enforcement across all 50 states. Currently, 38 states restrict or prohibit cellphone use while driving, but LaHood told attendees at a distracted-driving summit in San Antonio this week that he believes that the problem is a "national epidemic." According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were roughly 3,000 fatal traffic accidents caused by distracted driving in the US last year. LaHood believes a nationwide ban would reduce mortality rates and give law enforcement officials the power they need to limit and discourage the practice.
Last year, LaHood refused to give his support to a similar proposal from the National Transportation Safety Board, which sought a nationwide ban on cellphone use while driving, even when aided by hands-free devices. It is unclear if LaHood has reversed his perspective on hands-free devices, though he claims that his department is currently researching the distractions caused by hands-free devices and voice-assisted systems like Ford's Sync technology.