NTSB Wants Driver Cell Phones, Texting Banned

December 15, 2011

With all the recent emphasis on driver distraction and the dangers of hand-held cell phones and texting by drivers behind the wheel, the recommendation Tuesday by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to ban all handheld cell phones and text messaging devices by drivers by shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Texting while driving is a major distraction

Texting while driving is a major distraction

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As we reported recently, stopping drivers from texting while driving faces an uphill battle, despite surveys that show that drivers are aware it’s a dangerous activity and should be banned, even while they admit they continue to do it.

According to a report in Bloomberg, under the NTSB proposal, drivers wouldn’t be able to send text messages or use cell phones, even with portable speakers or headsets. And, as our sister publication TheCarConnection points out, citing CNN, handsfree systems, passengers and emergency situations are exempted from the recommendation.

This is far from a done deal, however. The NTSB can only make recommendations for U.S. and state agencies to act upon. It cannot implement them itself. Each state would have to adopt the NTSB’s recommendations separately, since only the states have the authority to regulate driver behavior.

The NTSB Chairman, Deborah Hersman, said that states should first adopt bans on electronic devices and then use aggressive enforcement to back up the laws, similar to what they’ve done with seat belt use and drunk driving.

Currently, 35 states ban texting while driving and nine (eight states plus the District of Columbia) prohibit the use of handheld cell phones behind the wheel.

What’s likely to happen and how soon? It’s anyone’s guess, but what is most likely is a stepped-up effort to encourage states to adopt and implement a ban on texting by drivers first. That seems to be the most realistic outcome in the near future, since slightly more than a dozen states remain holdouts on the issue.

But prohibiting the use of cell phones by drivers, period, except in the case of emergencies? That may take a lot longer.

What’s your take on this issue? Let us know in the comments section below.

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