US Government Agency Begs to End Cell Phone Use While Driving — Health Check
Studies about the dangers of using a cell device while driving have produced mixed results -- some say talking or texting behind the wheel can increase the odds of a crash exponentially, while others say the perils are few.
Regardless, the National Transportation Safety Board is so convinced of the dangers of "distracted driving" that it's now called for a nationwide ban on non-emergency cell phone use while driving. Even hands-free devices are not excluded.
"When it comes to using electronic devices, it may seem like it's a quick call or a quick text or a tweet, but accidents happen in the blink of an eye," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "No emails, no texts, no calls. It's worth a human life."
The five-member NTSB recommendation stemmed from a Missouri chain-reaction crash that killed two people last year, after which an investigation revealed that the 19-year-old driver who caused it had sent and received a flurry of texts in the minutes immediately prior.
Overall, the transportation department says more than 3,000 Americans were killed in distracted driving crashes last year.
The NTSB's proposed ban includes hands-free devices, which could also impact the auto industry. It has invested heavily in hands-free communications technology, making it optional or standard equipment in most new models sold in the United States.
In response, the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said the hands-free technology in cars is "designed to be used in a way that helps drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel ... consumers always expect to have access to technology, so managing [that] technology is the solution."
While the NTSB itself can't set policy, its recommendations carry a lot of weight with federal regulators and state lawmakers. Currently, 35 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving, but fewer than a dozen prohibit using a cell phone.