NTSB Recommends a Nationwide Ban on Cell Phone Use While Driving: A Good Idea?
By Dean I Weitzman, Esq. on December 27th, 2011
Aren’t you sick of all those drivers who are getting into crashes and killing or injuring innocent people in recent years because they are talking or texting on cellphones while they are driving their large and heavy steel, glass and plastic vehicular projectiles on public roadways?
So is the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). That’s why the NTSB recently recommended that all 50 U.S. states should forbid operators of motor vehicles from using cell phones for calls or texting while they are driving. That’s right – the NTSB suggested a total ban on cell phone use by drivers, except in emergencies, according to a story from The Associated Press (AP). The recommendation even includes a recommended ban on hands-free phones in addition to hand-held phones. Distracted drivers, the NTSB says, are simply too dangerous.
Now, that sounds huge, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon since the NTSB has no legal authority to force such a policy across the nation.
So what does it mean in real life?
Well, perhaps it is a sign of things to come if legislators begin to honestly look at the dangers of driving while using a cell phone. While the NTSB can’t force anyone to follow its recommendations, its findings do hold some weight with government leaders and certainly could influence policies.
The NTSB’s recommendation, even though it is just symbolic, came more than a year after the agency investigated a horrific highway crash on Aug. 5, 2010 near Gray Summit, Mo., when a 19-year-old man driving a pickup truck smashed into the rear of a tractor-trailer that had slowed for a highway construction zone, according to the AP story. The crash caused a chain-reaction collision involving a school bus. The 19-year-old driver and a student on the school bus were killed, while another 38 people were injured in the ensuing crash. The police investigation into the crash found that the pickup driver had sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes immediately before the crash, according to the AP.
“Missouri had a law banning drivers under 21 years old from texting while driving at the time of the crash, but wasn’t aggressively enforcing the ban,” the AP story reported. In the past, the agency has “recommended bans on texting and cell phone use by commercial truck and bus drivers and beginning drivers, but it has stopped short of calling for a ban on the use of the devices by adults behind the wheel of passenger cars.”
Last month, Pennsylvania passed a ban on texting by drivers, but it could be difficult to enforce because drivers are still permitted to use cell phones while driving, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer. Thirty-four other states, including New Jersey, have also banned texting while driving, according to the story. “Nine states, including New Jersey, also prohibit drivers from using handheld cellphones.”
Under the NTSB’s recommendations, that could potentially be a policy across the nation, if government leaders have the guts to make it happen.
Driving is something which needs full concentration even in the best of times. But mix it in with poor weather conditions, heavy traffic, highway speeds or neighborhoods with children playing outside and potentially darting into the street – and you have a dangerous mix.
Perhaps a complete ban on cell phone use in all motor vehicles seems heavy handed and crazy at first, but maybe it will get the attention it requires from motorists. Maybe a complete ban will cut the number of senseless deaths and crashes that happen today due to careless drivers who are talking or texting on cell phones while they are driving.
We don’t pretend to know all the answers on this volatile issue but if one death can be prevented through a cell phone ban for drivers across the U.S. then maybe it is seriously worth discussing in our country.