The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for the first-ever nationwide ban of cell phone use for any reason while behind the wheel of an automobile. The proposed ban would outlaw the use of all personal electronic devices (PEDs, except those designed to support the driving task) in all 50 states and the District of Columbia while operating a motor vehicle, a controversial safety recommendation with unanimous support from NTSB's Board.
"According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents," said Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving
"No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."
A fatal accident on August 5, 2010, in which a pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed due to an active construction zone and then was plowed into by a school bus was the springboard for the NTSB's vote on the proposed ban. A second school bus that had been following was also involved in the accident, which claimed two lives and injured 38 other people. The NTSB's investigation revealed that the driver of the pickup truck sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident, the last one moments before he rammed into the truck-tractor.
"In the last two decades, there has been exponential growth in the use of cell-phone and personal electronic devices," NTSB said in a statement. "Globally, there are 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers or 77 percent of the world population. In the United States, that percentage is even higher - it exceeds 100 percent."
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), distractions caused by mobile phones can be linked to a quarter of all automobile accidents in the U.S. The proposed ban is simply a recommendation and no states are required to follow through. Nine states currently prohibit all drivers from using cell phones while driving, and 35 states have banned text messaging for all drivers, according to the GHSA.