'Small-Government Conservative' Scarborough Favors Federal Intervention On Distracted Driving, Raising Driving Age to 18

The co-hosts of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" pleaded with the Secretary of Transportation Tuesday for federally mandated devices in cars that would scramble cell phone reception, as well as for raising the driving age nationwide to 18.

Calling himself a "small-government conservative," Scarborough said that he nevertheless supports a device in cars that would scramble cell phone reception while the car is in operation. Co-host Mika Brzezinski added that such a device was the only way to stop distracted-driving accidents.

"I can hear the battle coming, because we've got Chris Licht who's our E.P....when Mika was talking about disabling devices, said 'Yeah, well great, that's all we need, the federal government telling us when we can use our phones in cars'," Scarborough quipped, calling out his executive producer live on the set.

"Well I-I do actually want the federal government...I don't want my kids run over by a distracted driver. It seems to me that if the technology is there, we should – stop the texting, scramble it," Scarborough asserted.
 

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, a guest on Tuesday morning's show, believed the technology is indeed coming to cars. "I think you're going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles," he stated. "I love it," Scarborough replied.

Columnist and "Morning Joe" regular Mike Barnicle pressed LaHood about raising the driving age to 18. "Oh please do that," pleaded Brzezinski. "Do it," Scarborough chimed in. LaHood responded that the issue is decided by states, to which Brzezinski continued asking him to intervene.

Bill Press, host of a nationally-syndicated talk show, posed a different scenario. Affirming that he is in favor of banning cell phone use in cars, he nonetheless asked how conversations inside the vehicle are not just as distracting than cell phone conversations. "But what about the argument that if you've got somebody sitting along side of you, driving down the road, you guys are having a great conversation – it's more distracting than talking on the cell phone," he offered.

Scarborough and Brzezinski dismissed that argument as ludicrous.

A transcript of the segment, which aired on November 16 at 7:39 a.m. EDT, is as follows:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI: Alright, so, uh, Secretary – that's true. Everything you just said is true. Everybody does it. Everybody is on their phone, if you look around in my neighborhood all the moms are trying to pick up kids, they're on the phones, they're trying to pick up other kids – it happens. Isn't the only way to stop this is to have a device in the car – when that car is on, the slammer, literally, the phone slammer starts, and phones don't work – isn't that the only way to really stop it?

Sec. RAY LAHOOD, Secretary of Transportation: Well, look, there's a lot of technology out there now where they can disable phones, and we're looking at that. A number of those people came to our distracted driving meeting here in Washington and presented their technology, and that's one way. But you have to have good laws, you have to have good enforcement. But you have to have people take personal responsibility, that's the bottom line. If-If you – If you're texting for four seconds, your car goes the length of a football field – a 5,000 pound car going the length of a football field when you're not watching out the windshield, and you don't have both hands on the wheel. The reason we put up this video – these are the faces. We can talk about statistics, but when you hear the heartbreaking stories from people who've lost parents or children, you get it.  And that's what we're really –

JOE SCARBOROUGH: My problem is that 17 year-old girls are probably not looking at that video, and I can hear the battle coming, because we've got Chris Licht who's our E.P. when you – when Mika was talking about disabling devices, said "Yeah, well great, that's all we need, the federal government telling us when we can use our phones in cars." Well I-I actually do want the federal government – I don't want my 17 – I don't want my kids run over by a distracted driver. It seems to me if the technology is there, we should –

BRZEZINSKI: We should do it.

SCARBOROUGH: – at least stop the texting, scramble it.

(...)

SCARBOROUGH: Mr. Secretary, might we do that at some point? Could we do that at some point?

LAHOOD: I think it will be done. I mean, I think the technology is there, and I think you're going to see the technology become adaptable in automobiles --

BRZEZINSKI: I need it at my house.

LAHOOD: – and disable these cell phones –

SCARBOROUGH: I love it.

LAHOOD: We need to – we need to do a lot more, if we're going to save lives, and so –

BRZEZINSKI: If they make us wear a seat belt, you can make us not use our phone.

SCARBOROUGH: And Mike, you know, I'm a – Ray will tell you I'm crazy. I'm a small-government conservative, I distrust the federal government, but in this case –

BRZEZINSKI: Could care less.

SCARBOROUGH: – lives will be saved, insurance policy rates will go down, so many good things will happen if we scramble the signal of cell phones in cars.

LAHOOD: We have to get people to take personal responsibility, though too Joe.

MIKE BARNICLE: It's not just cell phones, Joe. ...I'm telling you, the touch-screen radio, changing the radio signals on the cars is a huge distraction. Mr Secretary, what about enforcing – what about raising the age to get a license to 18 across the country?

BRZEZINSKI: Oh please do that. Yes, we want that.

SCARBOROUGH: Do it.

LAHOOD: Well look, that's decided by states.

(Crosstalk)

BRZEZINSKI: Please Ray?

SCARBOROUGH: (Laughing) Come on, Ray, start a nanny state. We're pushing you.

BRZEZINSKI: I've got a 14 year-old, two years away. Please, please, please.

LAHOOD: If we start doing that, we'll have Scarborough blaming me for trying to pass all kinds of bad laws.

BRZEZINSKI: I'll take care of him.

BILL PRESS, Host, The Bill Press Show: ...Look, I'm all for you, no cell phones period. But what about the argument that if you've got somebody sitting along side of you, driving down the road, you guys are having a great conversation – it's more distracting than talking on the cell phone.

BRZEZINSKI: What are you talking about?

SCARBOROUGH: Nah, come on.

Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro
Matt Hadro was a News Analyst for the Media Research Center's News Analysis Division from 2010 through early 2014