So. It’s a few years from now. You’re driving in your car (with a passenger); it’s night, and it’s snowing. You’re out in the middle of nowhere. One of your tires blows out: fortunately, you’re able to stop before you flip the car, but you’re still out in the middle of nowhere at night in the snow with a flat tire. But that’s why you have Triple A… so you get out of your car and move far enough away to get a signal on your cell phone, then spend roughly the next hour or so slowly freezing solid as you navigate the tow truck in.
Basically, what LaHood is advocating is that new cars be outfitted with jamming devices for cell phones, in order to keep people from using them while they’re in the car. Normally this would be the place where people write things like "This would be a good idea, in theory, but …" – except that, really, this isn’t a good idea in theory, either. What’s a good idea in theory is teaching people how to drive properly. Removing one specific way to get a small number of idiots killed at the expense of everybody else in the country is not what you would call cost effective.
But I digress. Let us contemplate what the technology of a cell phone jammer implies:
- It cannot have an off switch that is under the control by the user . Because if it does, it will be turned off and kept off.
- It will have to be hooked up directly to the car battery . Translation: it will be always on . Unless you want to wire up something that only works when there’s a key in the ignition. In that case, the only difference that would make in the above scenario is that you can wait in a dark, unheated car for an hour. Also: in that case, when the jammer breaks, so does your car.
- It will have to be generating a jamming field. Sure, you could build a Faraday cage into a car… after retooling the entire assembly line which makes that particular model. In other words, you cannot build a Faraday cage into a car. So instead you make a small jammer and stuff it somewhere in the engine compartment. Only problem is, cars and trucks are all different sizes, so you make one that can cover them all. That means that you’re going to be broadcasting a jamming signal outside of your actual vehicle. And no, you can’t put the transmitter in the middle of the car. Retooling the entire assembly line, remember? Besides, why put an annoying transmitter somewhere that one good kick could disable it?
I’m sure that people will be happy to argue each point on technical grounds, but here’s the central theme: this is a nitwit idea . It is a nitwit idea because the entire reason to have a cell phone in the first place is so that you can communicate with the outside world in places where there is no accessible land line . People want to use their cell phones in cars, because having a cell phone in your car is handy in an emergency, during disasters, and/or when you’re simply trying to get directions into your destination. So people will try to get around the jamming signal. Preventing that will make the jamming signal more odious. So people will try harder. And it keeps going on, and on, and on.
Ray LaHood was a Republican legislator before he joined this administration; and, you know? I was wondering why the 111th Congress Republican House Caucus seemed collectively brighter than its predecessor. Now I know why.
Moe Lane (crosspost )