Cellphone use while driving can kill, NTSB says, urging full ban
States should implement a full ban on cellphones -- even hands-free devices -- when driving except in emergency situations, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended on Tuesday. The board said the dangers outweighed any benefits to talking or texting while on the road.
"It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said. "No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."
The recommendation was unanimously agreed to by the five-member board and drew attention to an August 2010 traffic collision on Interstate 44 in Gray Summit, Mo.
In that incident, a pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed because of a construction zone. The pickup truck was then struck from behind by a school bus. That school bus was then hit by a second school bus that had been following. As a result, two people died and 38 others were injured.
The NTSB's investigation of the case revealed that the pickup driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident. The last text was received moments before the pickup struck the truck-tractor.
"The Missouri accident is the most recent distraction accident the NTSB has investigated," the board said. "However, the first investigation involving distraction from a wireless electronic device occurred in 2002, when a novice driver, distracted by a conversation on her cell phone, veered off the roadway in Largo, Maryland, crossed the median, flipped the car over, and killed five people."
The board doesn't have the power to impose restrictions, but its recommendations carry significant weight with federal regulators and congressional and state lawmakers, according to the Associated Press.
In California, a ban on hand-held cellphones while driving has been in effect since 2008.
-- Andrea Chang
Photo: A driver talks on her cellphone while driving in Beverly Hills. Credit: Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times