Advocate editorial board opinion: Prohibiting hand-free communication is going too far

We were shocked by the results of the report from the National Transportation Board's investigation into a deadly accident in Missouri in 2010.

The report showed that the 19-year-old driver who initiated the wreck sent or received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the crash.

While this news was shocking, we were disappointed by the board's recommendation that all cellphone use by drivers, including hands-free devices, should be banned. Such a broad ban recommendation feels more like a knee-jerk emotional reaction than a reasoned response to a growing problem that comes with modern technology.

Texas already has a ban on cellphone use in active school zones, which is a common sense safety measure to ensure the safety of children. And we do agree that texting while driving is a dangerous distraction, but going so far as to ban hands-free devices seems excessive.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are three types of distraction behind the wheel: visual, taking your eyes off the road; manual, taking hands off the wheel; and cognitive, taking your mind off what you are doing. By these standards, texting is considered dangerous because it involves all three kinds of distraction.

The use of hands-free systems is about as distracting as changing the radio station, operating a GPS or talking to the person sitting in the passenger seat. It is certainly less distracting than changing out a CD, putting on makeup, dealing with rambunctious children or many other activities that drivers have done long before cellphones entered the picture.

We encourage people to use their common sense and courtesy when driving, especially when using a cellphone or exposing themselves to any other form of distraction. Please remember that you are controlling a large object made of thousands of pounds of metal, plastic and glass.

No matter what speed you are moving at, there is always potential for someone to get hurt.

If you must text, find a place to stop, or wait until you reach your destination.

If the kids are being too distracting, make good on that threat to pull over.

This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.