Distracted driving, some of it due to cellphone use, contributed to an estimated 3,092 deaths in highway crashes last year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life,” said NTSB
Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. “It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving.”
The independent NTSB has neither the legislative muscle of Congress nor the regulatory power of the White House, but as the nation’s leading federal safety advocate its recommendations carry weight in both places. Its recommendations also provide political cover if Congress or the administration wants to take on the powerful cellphone industry lobby and an American public addicted to cellphones and other forms of electronic communication.
It would be up to state legislatures, which already have banned text messaging while driving in 35 states and the District, to decide whether cellphone use should be illegal. But in the past, Congress has not been shy about leveraging its control of the federal purse strings to bring states in line on issues such as seat belts and the legal drinking age.
“The NTSB recommendation may be a game-changer,” said Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. “States aren’t ready to support a total ban yet, but this may start the discussion.”
The cellphone industry trade association, CTIA, has supported bans on texting while driving. But the group said it would “defer to state and local lawmakers and their constituents” on laws that govern talking on devices while driving.
Distracted driving is a proven safety hazard, yet will a ban on talking and texting work? As Hayley Tsukayama explained:
On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that states ban all talking and texting behind the wheel.
“It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronics while driving,” board chairwoman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a statement.
There’s no denying that distracted driving is a problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving contributed to around 3,092 traffic deaths last year. Banning cellphones seems like an easy fix and an honorable sentiment, but would it actually work?
That’s harder to argue, especially given recent data indicating that texting and driving is up 50 percent in the past year, even as states move to ban the practice. The Associated Press reported that the NHTSA also estimates that nearly one out of every 100 drivers is e-mailing, texting or Web surfing while driving. Young drivers are more likely to drive distracted, the report said, with nearly five of every 10 drivers in the 21-24 age bracket saying they would answer a cellphone call while driving.