Obama vs. drivers

The latest demonstration of the Obama administration’s hostility to transportation freedom comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, reports c|net:

Last month, the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency published a dense document with guidelines for automakers on how to minimize the distractions caused by in-vehicle electronics. Buried among equations for determining optimal display viewing angles and testing procedures is the recommendation that navigation devices should only show static or near-static images, which would essentially eliminate their usefulness. …

Every current installed navigation system uses the car as a fixed point, and shows the map moving around it. NHTSA wants that changed so as to keep the map fixed. Even showing the position of the car moving on the map could be considered a dynamic image. The recommendation seems to suggest that the position of the car could only be updated every couple of seconds. Likewise, the map could be refreshed once the car has left the currently displayed area.

This recommendation would essentially make navigation unusable. The system could still give an auditory warning for the next turn, but without being able to glance down at the map and see how close the next street is would likely lead to a lot of missed turns and resultant frustration.

And although NHTSA includes the results of driver distraction studies in the guidelines, it has no testing directly related to using a navigation system. Instead there are more general conclusions against any tasks that require looking at a device for periods of more than 2 seconds, or a series of glances that amount to more than 12 seconds at at time.

NHTSA is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which is run by former Republican U.S. Ray LaHood of Illinois, proof positive that not all big-government busybodies are Democrats. Apparently only in government can looking at a GPS device be considered more dangerous than looking at a road map or a road atlas.

The DOT also includes the National Transportation Safety Board, which late last year recommended that states ban cellphone use, including hands-free use, except in emergencies. This is despite the fact that an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study reports no decrease in crash rates in states that enacted cellphone bans.

There remains no compelling evidence that cellphone use is inherently more dangerous than other driver distractions. More dangerous than talking with a passenger? More dangerous than eating or drinking? More dangerous than adjusting your sound system or climate control system? More dangerous than looking at road signs? More dangerous than looking at your car’s speedometer when you see a police car?

Everything that leads to bad driver acts are already prohibited under state law,  ranging from inattentive driving (which gets you a ticket) to negligent use of a motor vehicle (which is a felony). Banning specific acts of inattentive or negligent driving is redundant, yet, in the case of cellphone and texting bans, unenforceable.

These are not the only instances of the Obama administration’s continuing harassment of drivers. How do you like paying upwards of $4 per gallon for gas? How are you going to like paying for $5-a-gallon gas later this year? How do you like your tax dollars being wasted on United Auto Workers-member salaries for GM or Chrysler workers? I won’t ask how you’ll like 54.5-mpg “vehicles,” because you won’t be able to afford one.

This and my previous blog chronicled the disaster that the Obama administration has been for cars and drivers. Would the GOP candidates be any better? Ron Paul might be fine with getting rid of the DOT entirely, but he’s not going to become president. Rick Santorum isn’t either,  but his economic positions have been bad enough to make you think he doesn’t get it about transportation freedom either. Newt Gingrich is enough of a technogeek to make you think he doesn’t like the Chevy Volt, but not necessarily non-internal-combustion-powered cars or such “innovations” as driverless cars.

That leaves Mitt Romney, who seems to be driving toward the nomination. Romney, remember, is the son of George Romney, former president of the late American Motors Corp. The younger Romney recently chose his Secret Service code name: “Javelin.” Maybe there’s some hope of having a president who’s not reflexively anti-car and anti-transportation freedom.


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