A ban on the use of all mobile devices by drivers except in emergencies has just been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Their decision is based on investigations into distraction-related accidents for the past decade where electronic distraction has played an increasing role, combined with escalating concerns about the increasing capabilities of mobile devices that will give rise to even more distractions. “Every year, new devices are being released. People are tempted to update their Facebook page, they are tempted to tweet, as if sitting at a desk. But they are driving a car” said Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of NTSB, who added It’s going to be very unpopular with some people. “We’re not here to win a popularity contest. We’re here to do the right thing. This is a difficult recommendation, but it’s the right recommendation and it’s time.”
Here is an excerpt from the NTSB’s recommendation:
To the 50 states and the District of Columbia:
(1) Ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers; (2) use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration model of high visibility enforcement to support these bans; and (3) implement targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and enforcement, and to warn them of the dangers associated with the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices while driving.
To put this recommendation in perspective, I wrote in my blog on Dec. 13th that In Spite of Risks, More Drivers Text than Ever Before that texting while driving increased 50% from 2009 to 2010 according to the newly released annual National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study, and that consumer phone use while driving doesn’t end there. Consumers are also reading and typing email, watching video, playing games, using their GPS maps to navigate, and browsing the Internet.
In fact, in another study released by the Governors Highway Safety Association, 100 drivers were continually observed for a full year. The results found that drivers were distracted between one-quarter and one-half of the time.
Responding to the NTSB’s recommendation, the Wireless Association (CTIA) issued a statement saying it agrees that distracted driving is a dangerous problem and the group supports a ban on “manual texting” while driving, but would defer to state and local lawmakers when it comes to talking on wireless devices while driving.
Would it kill you to put down that cell phone while driving? No…. But failing to put it down just might.