Paul reacts to NTSB recommendation for ban on cell phone use while driving
December 14th, 2011
03:59 PM ET
11 years ago

Paul reacts to NTSB recommendation for ban on cell phone use while driving

Amherst, New Hampshire (CNN) - On Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul weighed in on a controversy catching the attention of many Americans: the federal safety board's call for a nationwide ban on cell phone use and texting while driving.

Citing the dangers of distracted driving, the National Transportation Safety Board urged states Tuesday to outlaw non-emergency phone calls and texting for all drivers. It would apply to hand-held as well as hands-free devices, but devices installed in the vehicle by the manufacturer would be allowed, the NTSB said.

Paul reacted to the non-binding recommendation after being asked about it by a voter at a morning campaign stop at Joey's Diner in Amherst, New Hampshire. Paul visited the diner as part of a two-day swing through the first-in-the-nation presidential primary state.

"I was thinking about that because it was in the news today. So I went to the Constitution and I looked at Article 1, Section 8. There is nothing in there about telephones," Paul said, prompting laughter and applause from the crowd. "Then I thought, 'Well there is nothing in there about what you can do and can't do when you are driving in a horse and buggy either."

Paul noted the proposed exception for manufacturer installed equipment: "And then they're going to do it by regulation. They're going to say the phone is okay if its built with the cars. Well maybe the car industries might like this. That means they can, you know, charge you more for the automobile."

The Texas congressman, a self-proclaimed "constitutional conservative," staunchly promotes libertarian views. Among them: a dramatic scaling back of the role of federal government in the lives of Americans. True to that form, Paul said the NTSB proposal was another example of government overreach.

"The federal government shouldn't be involved," Paul told the crowd.

The congressman acknowledged that talking and texting while driving is potentially dangerous. And he added that eating or "disciplining kids" could also cause driver distractions. Yet Paul asked: who should be responsible for preventing it?

"For the federal government – that means they have to enforce these laws. Does that mean we're going to have more federal policemen checking up on who is going to answer the phone?" Paul asked.

And as he frequently does, the congressman repeated an unyielding line used by those who support Libertarianism: in a push for more individual liberty, Americans should be responsible for themselves – even if it means endangering themselves.

"It's taking away the responsibility from you as the individual, that if you mess up and you do something wrong in a car you should be held responsible," Paul said. "If somebody comes along and it is determined that you have to really have a regulation, under our system of government, it has to be done at the local level."

"The basic principle of being responsible for all your actions would handle all these kinds of circumstances."

Paul has frequently pressed that sentiment.

At one point during the CNN Tea Party debate in September, moderator and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer asked Paul what should happen to an employed young man who chose not to buy health insurance and then suffered a terrible accident.

"Who's going to pay if he goes into a coma, for example? Who pays for that?" Blitzer asked Paul.

Part of Paul's response: "What he should do is whatever he wants to do, and assume responsibility for himself," adding, "That's what freedom is all about, taking your own risks."

"But Congressman, are you saying that society should just let him die?" Blitzer pressed.

Paul responded, "No." But some audience members cheered that idea.

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Filed under: 2012 • New Hampshire • Ron Paul
soundoff (80 Responses)
  1. Larry L

    Anarchy. He talks about freedom but never actually answers the questions. He's the Ralph Nader of the Republican Party. He's a lunatic raving at cars as they pass...

    December 14, 2011 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  2. Robert

    @Willlk – That's what everybody is missing. He constantly says "at the local level". your township should worry about that law, not our gov't.

    December 14, 2011 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  3. Greg Smith

    So if I'm driving and texting and get in an accident because of it and kill someone else, why should they have been put in danger because of my decision? In Paul's world would I have been guilty of anything and have to suffer any consequences? That's an area where Paul's philosophy seems to fall off the edge.

    December 14, 2011 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  4. Landon

    Ok, so everyone that is for ths federal ban is ok with being told what to do? it doesnt stop there, it never does! States have bans on this! why does it need to be at a federal level? One of these days they (Federal Government) is going to put a ban on something that each of you use and then how can you take a stand and say that it isnt right? You know it is against the law to drive without a seatbelt, but that doesnt stop people from doing it! what the hell is wrong with you people? why is it ok to allow the parents to get this crap for their kids?? Oh probably because most of you have done that for your kids! its easier to have someone else rasie your little tax credit! It always comes down to individual resposibilites regardless of how many laws there are! you people need to move to bubble wrap land where everything is nice and safe and everything is made out of air pockets! you are all weaklings and deserve the slavemasters you have elected for you!

    December 14, 2011 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. David

    GREG SMITH is NOT a FEDERAL issue. ONE MORE TIME. FEDERAL. F E D E R A L. Say it until you get it.

    December 14, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  6. Fred

    Most of you are really scary people. Are you going to ban drive-thru windows because eating while driving is a hazard? Car radios, they can be a distraction. How about GPS? You don't realize what will happen when you start letting these non elected government workers control your lives. Whether you like all of Paul's positions or not, we must not give up our freedom.

    December 14, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. The Real Tom Paine

    Thanker, Ron Paul is wrong. Think about it. He's hopelessly naive if he thinks people are going to all behave in the same virtuous way. Its nice, but they won't. Who is going to decide what is responsible behavior? Ron Paul? Penn Gillette? Who amongst the Libertarian intelligensia wil become the morals and virtue police to tell us all how to behave? He just wants to exchange one form of control for another, the one he approves of. Cute, but hopelessly naive.

    December 14, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  8. Bob in Pa

    I agree with no texting aspect of this, but next we will need to stop singing along to the radio or changing radio stations because it is too distracting. Oh, and what about those crying babies in the back seat, they should go too.

    December 14, 2011 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  9. MWM

    It might work if everyone were as moral as Ron. What about the Newts of the world.

    December 14, 2011 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  10. Karen

    Gee "The Real Tom Paine" must be one of those ironic names because the real Tom Paine would've only agreed with the following quote on opposite day. "Libertarianism: the creed for the morally and intellectually lazy."

    Obviously it's the free who must be moral and astute. After all, there's no one to bail them out of any messes they might get themselves into.

    December 14, 2011 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. David

    Zebulon really think this will stop people from using their phones? Did the "War on Drugs" end drug use? poor poor people. Now people will not only be distracted by using the phone they now have an extra distraction of trying to not get caught. That law will bring your car and you back to life right?

    December 14, 2011 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  12. Rob G

    While I do agree that people should not be talking/texting while driving, as it does pose at least as much risk as drinking and driving, I also feel that it should be MUCH more difficult to get a driver's license than it currently is. And if someone is responsible for causing an accident because they were on the phone, then they should lose their license and be fined multi-thousands of dollars. Stupidity should be punished severely when it adversely affects other people.

    December 14, 2011 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  13. Live Free or Die 2012

    It's the same arguement that guns don't kill people, people kill people. Same with cell phones and driving. Of course you shouldn't text and drive, but I should be able to talk on the phone if I wanted to do it responsibly. If your teenager can't be trusted to do the right thing behind the wheel....take their phone away! Turn the texting service off! Don't let them drive! Why does the government have to police us over common sense decisions? This is what is wrong with our society, we all need Uncle Sam to tell us what is right and what is wrong. No one thinks for themselves anymore. Of COURSE you shouldn't be texting or reading or updating facebook while driving. You also shouldn't read a book, do a crossword puzzle or brush your teeth while driving but you can't ban books, crossword puzzles and tooth brushes from being in the car!
    Get a grip on reality. Dr. Paul makes a ton of sense. Take responsibility for your own lives and quit waiting for Uncle Sam to do it for you.

    December 14, 2011 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  14. 2cents4free

    Wow, TWO Ron Paul stories in one day? The end is nigh I tell ya!!

    December 14, 2011 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  15. donkeykongsmashesnewts

    Oh no, more regulation to keep American's safe! What communist BS is this? screw the week, screw the poor, screw the fat, and screw your food and drugs, We are Republicans and if you ain't rich, you don't deserve to live.

    December 14, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  16. Robert

    I am with Dr. Paul on this one...I don't want the Federal government to make a law about common sense; it's beyond ridiculous. Now if there is a local code where the police can actually catch some goof texting on the road; that's makes more sense. The NSTB should be working on making AIR TRANSPORTATION SAFE instead of me, my car and my cell phone.

    December 14, 2011 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. Eddy4

    Amazing, states can still implement this law. He speaks for the federal government. Why are people freaking out?

    December 14, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  18. David

    THEREALTOMPAINE....easy. Libertarians think you can do what you want as long as it does not infringe on others. This law protects you from the POSSIBILTY of an infringement. SO if we are protecting the POSSIBILITY then we have to ban kids in teh car, maps, drinks, food, street signs, billboards. LOL where does it stop with you?

    December 14, 2011 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  19. Eric

    This is actually one of those gray areas within libertarianism itself, and I'm surprised that Ron Paul would take such a knee-jerk unthoughtful stance on it (unless he is thinking about this from a pure states' rights perspective). If I kill someone else because of my actions, ie not paying attention, then I have in fact infringed on the freedoms of someone else. This would be unthinkable in a libertarian's mind, and is in fact where a libertarian would agree that a law should be in place to prevent it. We do not allow murder because it infringes on the victims right to live, but we do allow you to eat greasy food and watch TV all day because it effects only your health and does not infringe on anyone Else's freedoms. Driving on a cell phone is somewhere in between those two extremes, and it's not actually a straightforward answer–even for a libertarian.

    December 14, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  20. anagram_kid

    I will give Paul this – the fewer people you have in a society the more likely Libertarianism will work. I think if we went to a full-fledged Libertarian approach to government, the effects of unchecked water pollution alone would probably wipe out a good chunk of the population within a few generations. If a company had a choice of spending ten million dollars to safely dispose of waste or spend nine million to settle law suits and pay fines, which do you think they would choose? What if the fines and lawsuits were not a factor? Do you think the company will do the right thing or the profitable thing? The sad reality is people are not responsible as a rule – they are greedy, selfish and lazy. Libertarianism sounds great when you are high in your dorm room but it will never work in the real world.

    December 14, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  21. Brad, PA

    Ron is the man! Just stay out of my biz big brother. I'm an adult and don't need you breathing down my neck about every little thing that can possibly go wrong in life.

    December 14, 2011 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  22. Emperor Norton

    Like a lot of libertarian ideas, it seems to assume that we live in a magical fantasy kingdom where everyone is absolutely autonomous. You pretty much have to build your own kingdom from the ground up before libertarianism starts to look good, i.e. "The Probability Breach," and even then questions are going to linger.

    They wanted to ban cell phones while driving because if it's against the law, people will think twice about doing it. If you rely upon people's common sense, you won't get anywhere, because common sense isn't.

    December 14, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  23. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Should we elect someone who has to stand on a chair to look right into Putin's eyes?

    December 14, 2011 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  24. johnborg

    Ron Paul inspires young people because he wants to end the wars and focus on the national economy. However, if they were all aware of his appalling views on gay marriage, abortion, healthcare, the environment, and so on, the majority of them wouldn't back him.

    December 14, 2011 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  25. Zebulon Pi

    The people that are saying "Well, if you breathe you could choke, what do we do next, ban BREATHING?!?" are missing the point. Using hyperbole to that effect is useless. You could say "They shouldn't ban MURDER, what will they ban next, freedom of speech?!?" It's two totally different things.

    There are people in the world that will do bad things until they are FORCED not to. Dumping that enforcability onto the states makes it that much more likely that the state will NOT enforce it due to monetary issues, thusly making it UNENFORCED, and we're back to people doing the bad things with no consequences.

    December 14, 2011 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
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