Federal Government

Obama, Feds Exempt Coppers From Tech Ban While Driving

When the national media announced a proposed Federal Government ban on ALL in car devices–with emphasis on eliminating texting while driving, the GUARDIAN sought clarification from the United States Transportation Department in Washington, D.C.

We wondered if the ban would apply to coppers who we all see driving down the road looking at computer screens or trying to punch info into their computers while driving. Here is what we got “on background” and attributable to the NHTSA (national highway transportation safety administration).

“No matter who is sitting behind the wheel, distracted driving is unsafe, irresponsible, and could have devastating consequences. However, the nation’s public safety professionals – including first responders such as police, fire, and EMS – have a special mission, information needs, and training that clearly distinguish them from other motorists on our roadways. In particular, law enforcement officers need certain in-vehicle equipment to do their job safely and effectively. As a result, law officers are trained to operate their vehicle and its equipment without compromising their own safety or that of other road users.”

Also here is a link to the President’s EXECUTIVE ORDER 13513, “Federal Leadership on Reducing Text Messaging While Driving”. In section 3C there is an exemption for law enforcement individuals.

We have yet to find a copper–or any other human who can look down and right while also looking straight ahead scanning the highway. Must be some really super training for these heroes. Perhaps they will exempt other motorists who master the police training courses.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. “The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we all believe that we are above-average drivers.”
    - Dave Barry

    As much as I see a cellphone ban as “government meddling,” I don’t know what the answer is. There are people who can drive and talk on a phone at the same time, no problemo… but there are plenty of people who can’t drive and chew gum at the same time! And they’re out there on the highways and byways, yappin’ on the phone and killing and maiming innocent bystanders. (I’m not aware of anybody, including cops, who can competently drive while looking elsewhere and fiddling with a keyboard. SCARY!!)

  2. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you are driving. In Idaho we have a code violation for Inattentive Driving. We don’t need new laws, just enforce the existing one.

  3. I agree with LJ but the current statute needs to include some wording to include cellphones and distracting communication devices.

  4. Pablo Hernandez
    Dec 14, 2011, 9:47 pm

    I personally do not believe anyone can drive a motor vehicle and talk or text without imparing their abiltiy to operate the vehicle. Driving is a full time job and no phone call or text is worth endangering yourself or someone else. Police Officers included.

  5. Is it hyperbole, or hypocrisy when you say “We have yet to find a copper–or any other human who can look down and right while also looking straight ahead scanning the highway”

    Have you never looked down and right when talking to your significant other while driving?

    Have you never looked down and right to find your french fries after going thru the drive thru?

    Have you never looked down and right when changing the channel on the radio? Or worse hunting for that eight track tape you dropped and fast forwarding it to you favorite song?

    LJ is right, we have existing law that covers the problem.

  6. Rod in SE Boise
    Dec 14, 2011, 10:19 pm

    The problem isn’t “government meddling”, it is the unequal application of government meddling, by exempting cops.

  7. LJ, the “inattentive driving” law is often cited as a reason why we don’t need specifics like texting or cell phone use… but inattentive driving is a judgment call by a law enforcement officer.

    The problem is, everybody thinks of himself as a better-than-average driver (see Dave Barry observation above), and assumes he can handle the distractions fine. Since cops are “trained,” they are probably more likely than most to assume that distracted-driving law is for normal drivers, not for them.

  8. It’s about time! When you drive you shouldn’t be doing other things.

  9. Many drivers are frequently guilty of reckless driving: “without due caution and circumspection, and … in a manner as to endanger or be likely to endanger any person or property.” I see it all the time! A disproportionate percentage are using their electronic devices… I see that all the time, too.

    I would TOTALLY support Paul’s proposal. Change the wording to something like this: “Reckless/Inattentive Driving includes, but is not limited to, using a cellphone or other electronic device, staring at your device screen instead of up the road, clicking little buttons on gizmos that require you to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel, sleeping, reading, screaming at the brats in the back seat, eating a double quarter-pounder with fries, drinking that Big Gulp, fiddling with your radio or CD player…” (Am I forgetting anything?)

    An unfortunate reality is… there are some people who think anything that isn’t specifically regulated by rules is okay. They are the ones that cause rules to be imposed on the entire populace.

  10. Normally I’m on the same page as you, and have been in the past in regards to this issue. But after having joined officers on several ride alongs I believe that them being able to access their computers without pulling over is absolutely critical to them doing their job.

    While coppers were able to handle just fine in the days before laptops and cell phones…the services they now provide really can and do save lives. They can help coppers get to your home quicker using mapping software, read which and how many units are responding, view ongoing incidents, and a whole lot more.

    Not only that, coppers are able to instantly get information on a vehicle or it’s owner in real time…letting them know if the car is stolen or if the owner has warrants. Hardly makes sense to have them pull over, input the information, wait for it to be retrieved and then try to catch up with the vehicle again.

    It’d be one thing if we saw a spike in police vehicle accidents due to the use of technology in the vehicles, but we haven’t as far as I can discern.

    Go on a ride along! See what they do and how they do it. You’re paying for it, mind as well evaluate them yourself

  11. Police In General (PIG’s) have a radio and a computer to stay in touch with dispatch and each other…I understand there using those devices while driving but, why do they need to have their cell phones glued to their ears while at work? Most jobs dont allow this type of behaivor..(PIG’s)should not be allowed to do what they will cite others for. Am I a hater… yes and no.. do I hate(PIG’s)as people no what I hate is that for the most part they are not treated the same as every other citizen.

  12. if it is so critical how did they ever do the job with out a computer…oh ya… they pulled the care over called dispatch and had the plate ran before they ever got out of the car… there is NO need to have computers in the cars…

  13. Reference Rick’s comment. You assume the police are using their personal cell phones for personal business. I’m sure that happens, but I also know police handle numerous calls (theft reports, vandalism reports, citizen questions, etc) over the phone…often while they are driving to the next call.

  14. Its also been proven that its not safe to pull the car over, then run the plate, while sitting in a car where a suspect could get out of the vehicle pulled over an begin an armed attack on the officer. Keep em coming Rick, I got plenty more for your uneducated self!

    EDITOR NOTE–We have declined to post “cop hater” remarks from some readers, but this is the type of baiting comment that creates cop haters and is inappropriate for the GUARDIAN. Your next comment like this could warrant a visit from the chief…

  15. I spent the first 10 years of my law enfocement career not having an “MDT” (computer) in the car. When I finally worked at an agency that had acess to one I was stunned at the abilities it provided for gathering further information enroute to a call, coordinating responding units, veifying locations and directions, communicating with other officers as well as running plates and individuals without using up limited air time. I now work in a mountainous area without the needed coverage to have an MDT and it severally limits my capabilities to more easily and effectively do my job. Just as before I had one, it doesn’t keep me from doing my job, an MDT just allows an officer to do their job easier and to be more effective.

    With that being said, officers are NOT exmpt from following too close or inattentive driving violations if their actions cause a collision and I know of several cases where officers have been charged. There has been no study conducted by NHTSA nor any other entity which shows an increase in collisions by officers using an MDT as opposed to those not using them. Until such data exists, obviously agencies have decided that the risk outways the reward as far as public and officer safety is concerned. There are more expensive alternatives on the horizon as technology gets smaller and user friendly (ie Heads Up Display, etc)and as they become more cost effective I would look for them to be used more often.

  16. WOW, Freedom of speech out the window huh? I understand that you can limit what is put on your blog, but by threatening me with a visit from someone due to me exercising my 1st amendment rights is amazing. Seems somewhat double standrad against the BPD, when folks like Rick and Robert can continually post their anti-police comments, but by posting my beliefs I get threats from the blog master, unreal!

    EDITOR NOTE–We were offering a bit of “fatherly advice,” no threat and the chief won’t be visiting. We have declined to post similar adversarial comments from readers who simply wish to bash coppers with no substance to the comment or not even on topic. Check your department e-mail.

  17. My undeucated self…
    editor.. are you saying that if I state an opinion the chief will come looking for me? Im sure if he does you will be oh so happy…as I said I dont hate cops…just the double standard

    EDITOR NOTE–
    (MOST OF THIS POST HAS BEEN DELETED. BOTH RICK AND SUMF HAVE BEEN TOLD TO PLAY NICE. THIS FORUM IS FOR DISCUSSION, NOT BICKERING.)

  18. Yes. A Guardian comment section actually worth reading! And I have learned so much…I think. Basically cops and robbers? But by far the most telling comments are from… “daddy” ie Editor? Did you really identify a readers employment and then threaten to get him in trouble with his boss? I didn’t hear you threaten to contact Rick’s parole officer? (maybe it was a deleted post or did you email him directly?) Come on, for being a self proclaimed champion of freedom of speech and transparency, I’m surprised by your addition to the above bout. You are right…fun, factual and informed!
    PS Editor: please do not censor/delete/or email me. Everyone else: Good stuff!

    EDITOR NOTE–”Threat” was tongue-in-cheek. The issue has been resolved privately. Our problem is poor conduct on the part of coppers baiting readers–and the GUARDIAN. We support justice, good police work, and civility. We don’t want this blog to degenerate to the level of comments found at a much bigger newspaper blog.

  19. Get the cops a much smaller car and they will keep an eye out.

  20. by the way pmurphy… Rick doesnt have a parole officer or a probation office for that matter… but thanks for jumping to conclusions.. I assume you are “officer murphy”

  21. LJ although some of the officers are using the phone for official buisness it is safe to say the the majority of use is personal… and your “taking a report” comment is laughable.. am I to believe that they are on the phone taking a report while going to a call. how were they writing/typing this info…lol

  22. idahocrystal
    Dec 16, 2011, 2:01 pm

    Just wanted to point out that this isn’t any more of a double standard than the seat belts police are exempt from wearing – whether or not they’re on duty, as tragically highlighted by the off-duty officer who died when his truck rolled not too long ago… (near Emmett or Cambridge, maybe?)

    In any case, I think nearly ALL vehicular accidents could be avoided if EVERY driver would simply STFU & Focus…
    = >

  23. Rick: You didn’t even manage 1 complete sentence without contradicting yourself. Here’s a tip-there is a reason this site gives you those three minutes after you click submit

    Dave, I appreciate the attempt to maintain a respectable journalistic contribution, but your readers reflect your writing. If you find yourself with the same 10 “degenerate” single-minded fans (which is not helping your supposed cause), consider publishing articles a little more to the center to widen your base. You already know this so perhaps I’m just making a request for both our sakes; my desire being to have local print more accurate and less predictable than the Daily. It’s a thoroughly investigated and thought provoking headline that is supposed to fire the people up-most of your routine fanatics log on looking for a fight.

    EDITOR NOTE–Murph, the only cause is truth and transparency in government. Our readership is way way up, but comments do indeed seem to come from a core group. Our records, however show 1/3 of all comments are new. The cop stuff is presenting a dilemma for us. They have 2 pr spinners who pump out DUI and kiddie porn stories about arrests, but there is NO ONE looking over the shoulder of the coppers–even those who get fired for bad stuff on duty, never to wear a badge again.

  24. Editor: Who is the unbias mediator for citizen complains about police is this area? Why do we need one? Is the problem getting better or worse?

    Also, seems to me that if they wreck while on a personal call it should not be covered by the city insurace. If we write that into the insurace policy we could save some money.

    I think they need to be on the phone and computer for work. They typically only kill innocent people when driving too fast chasing bad guys anyway, in which case they are just being wreckless drivers with a cause and probably not on the phone or computer.

  25. pmurphy, thanks for the grammar lesson. I will try to rise to your level. There was no complete sentence in my last post, nor was there a contradiction however, there was a typo that you failed to catch. Complete sentence to follow.
    My point since you seem to have missed it in your zeal to bash was only this, I do not have either a parole or probation officer. Gramar checked by a english major prior to posting.

  26. Brian The Dog
    Dec 16, 2011, 9:17 pm

    A federal law? Who will enforce that federal statute? FBI perhaps? I did not know local police or Sheriff deputies were able to enforce federal codes? Maybe I am wrong? Please enlighten me. Also, do you really think cops are going to cite/arrest people on their cell phones while driving…Doubt it. All smoke and mirrors people. Nothing to see here folks, move along…..

  27. Brian, This is an executive order, meaning that it only applies to federal employees. However, with all of the recent interest generated I think that it will only be a matter of time before we see NHTSA and/or congress push this down to the states like they did the speed limit 55 and .08 BAC. That is, they will tie federal highway funding to a state falling in line with federal guidelines.

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