The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called upon states to ban drivers’ use of cell phones and any personal electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. Let the debate begin!
The NTSB proposal would apply to hands-free devices, but not GPSs.
The agency made the proposition in connection with the results of its investigation into an Aug. 5, 2010, crash on I-44 in Gray Summit, MO, that killed two people and injured 38 others.
A pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor. Then a school bus hit the pickup, and the first school bus was hit by a second one. The pickup driver and a 15-year-old student were killed.
The NTSB investigation showed the pickup driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes before the crash. The last text was received moments before the pickup struck the truck.
Probable cause is listed as distraction.
NTSB investigations into these type of crashes dates back nine years. The first was in 2002 when a driver, distracted by a cell phone conversation, veered off a road in Largo, MD, crossed the median, and killed five people.
Other transportation incidents in which people were injured or killed due to an operator’s cell phone use:
- In the 2008 collision of a commuter train with a freight train in Chatsworth, CA, the commuter train engineer ran a red signal while texting. The collision killed 25 and injured dozens.
- In Philadelphia in 2010, a barge being towed by a tugboat ran over a duck boat full of tourists in the Delaware River, killing two passengers. The tugboat mate failed to maintain a proper lookout because of his repeated use of his cell phone.
- In 2010, near Munfordville, KY, a tractor trailer left its lane, crossed the median and collided with a 15-passenger van. The truck driver didn’t keep control of his vehicle because he was distracted by use of his cell phone. Eleven people were killed.
The NTSB’s call for states to ban drivers from using hand-held and hands-free devices goes beyond any laws enacted. Nine states now ban the use of hand-held phones, and 35 states ban texting by drivers. Some states have passed laws that apply to the use of cell phones by drivers under the age of 21. (For a summary of state laws, click here.)
Across the globe, 20 countries have some limitations on the use of phones by drivers, including complete bans in Germany and Portugal.
The cell phone industry backs bans on texting while driving.
The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers says it’s reviewing the NTSB recommendations. However, it defended the integrated systems now available in many cars, saying they allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while they make calls.
No doubt many cell phone owners will oppose the NTSB’s proposal, particularly that it includes hands-free devices such as headsets and integrated systems.
For businesses, there are good reasons to enact their own bans of one type or another. In any lawsuits stemming from a crash, evidence of texting while driving may prove negligence or recklessness, which often determines the outcome of an injury lawsuit. If a texting driver wants to sue someone else regarding a crash, the texting may constitute contributory negligence and prevent the texting driver from obtaining compensation.
Let’s hear what you have to say: Do you support the NTSB’s call for a ban on the use of all electronic devices in vehicles, hand-held and hands-free? If not, what kind of a ban would you support? You can leave your comments below.