PHILADELPHIA — The National Transportation Safety Board issued its annual highway travel recommendations ahead of the holiday weekend, as Americans this week prepared for summer pilgrimages both long and short. Drivers are encouraged to inspect their engines beforehand, to carry first-aid supplies and water and to take note of an increasing number of local regulations that prohibit the altering or adjusting of music played while a vehicle is in motion.
Some 41 states – as well as D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin islands – forbid text messaging while driving; all but four of those states make the ban primary enforcement, meaning a police officer can pull you over for doing nothing but texting. Increasingly, however, states are also disallowing drivers from “messing with” their radios, iPods or CDs – even to lower the volume or skip past that one horrible song on The Killers’ “Hot Fuss.”
“Safety experts are telling us more and more that distracted drivers greatly increase the risk to themselves and other drivers,” said NTSB spokeswoman Clare Kubot. “Banning texting is a good start, but we won’t be happy until the driver’s hands are both on the wheel at all times. The radio is fast becoming enemy No. 1. You want to listen to Kanye’s new album at something higher than super-low volume? You shoulda thought of that before you started the four-hour drive to Lake Placid.”
Distraction.gov, the official U.S. government website for distracted driving, because they have that, puts “adjusting a radio, CD player or mp3 player” alongside “texting” and “watching a video” on its list of activities that take “attention away from the primary task of driving.” It also lists “eating and drinking,” “grooming” and “talking to passengers.”
On Tuesday, Charlotte, N.C., Mayor Anthony Foxx was sworn in as the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, replacing Ray LaHood, and Foxx took the opportunity to lament the “disgustingly human behaviors” that lead to “irritatingly imperfect” driving.
“One day soon, God willing, all vehicles will be automated, and no one will ever have to drive again,” Foxx said in his swearing-in speech. “But until then, the safest thing to do in your racing, metal death cage is to sit in utter silence. Put both hands on the wheel, rotate your eyes through your mirrors every 90 seconds and just pray that no one kills you with their racing, metal death cage.”
So far, every state that prohibits the changing of music while driving makes an exception should the change result in the playing of British rock band The Moody Blues.