Blocking Cell Phone Signals In The Driver's Seat - InformationWeek

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4/13/2009
03:55 PM
Ed Hansberry
Ed Hansberry
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Blocking Cell Phone Signals In The Driver's Seat

In an effort to get some people to stop talking when driving, an inventor named Fred Wenz has been working on a device that would block cell phone signals in the driver's seat of the car. They have a provisional patent according to this article. I'm not sure about you, but I am not keen on the idea of using this technology for a number of reasons.

In an effort to get some people to stop talking when driving, an inventor named Fred Wenz has been working on a device that would block cell phone signals in the driver's seat of the car. They have a provisional patent according to this article. I'm not sure about you, but I am not keen on the idea of using this technology for a number of reasons.First of all, they state "the device effectively blocks the incoming and outgoing radio signal to and from cell phones for a five-foot radius - effectively the space around a driver's seat." What kind of car are they driving? A five foot radius is a ten foot diameter. That is one seriously large car, a first generation Hummer perhaps. If you measure five feet from my head into all directions in the car, you'll hit everyone in the car with that blocking. Even if the device is on a key chain near the steering column, you'd still cover everyone in the front seat and the people in back would have to lean way back. Heck, you might even disconnect the poor sap that pulled up next to you on your left at a parking light.

But those are technical issues that can be worked through. Philosophically, this is still a bad idea to me. I wear a hands free headset when I drive, so I am not juggling a phone while trying to talk. If my wife needs to get in touch with me while I a driving, then so be it. I know 20 years ago the technology wasn't there for most people, and we got along fine, right? Well, 120 years ago we got along fine without cars and the accident rate was almost nil, but you don't see anyone advocating the return to horse and buggy do you?

One of the suggested uses is with a teenager. Block cell phone signals and they will be a safer driver. I am not sure that follows. You educate them on what they can do when driving, which isn't much more than change radio stations on occasion, and that's it. Will some teens break the rules? Well, sure. They can also stick the cell phone in the trunk and use a Bluetooth headset to circumvent the device since it is only designed to block cellular signals.

The first time someone using one of these devices has an accident and is pinned in their car, unable to get out, and they cannot call 911 because the signal is blocked, you'll immediately have a backlash and a potential lawsuit. I don't want to be the parent at home calling my son at 11:30pm to find out where they are only to get voice mail. Are they happily driving home and the cell signal is being blocked, or are they in trouble and unable to call, because the cell signal is being blocked?

It took a number of years for people to get religious about wearing seatbelts. Some have enough common sense to put them on and others had to get tickets. It is the same with holding a cell phone while driving. It needs to be a ticketable offense. In too many jurisdictions, you can only get ticketed for holding your cell phone if you are also pulled over for another reason, such as speeding or having a missing taillight.

Using technology like this is simply wrong headed thinking. But watch out. Mr. Wenz is lobbying to make the gadgets made as mandatory as airbags in all new vehicles sold in the US. Education and enforcement are the answers here, not technology, at least not this kind.

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