LaHood steers clear of hands-free cell phone use while driving debate

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"The problem is everybody has a phone to their ear and they think they can drive a 5,000 pound car," he said.

NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman has said the rationale being the safety board's recommedation is the act of talking on the phone itself causes the distraction. The panel's recommendation calls for states to pass laws banning all electronic devices from being used in cars except those that directly "assist with the driving task."

She argues that the act of talking on the phone itself causes the distraction.

"The distraction that is there is not just from manipulating something," she said last week in a news conference announcing the new rules. "There's a cognitive distraction."

LaHood took a different tack Wednesday, arguing that a ban on manual cell phone use was necessary because "There are a lot of people out there who can''t afford a Bluetooth or a Sync."