The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called for a full, nationwide ban on using any sort of electronic device, including phones, while driving.
Such a ruling would bring the US in line with many other parts of the world – although it would go further than most, in extending the ban to hands-free devices too.
“According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents”, says chairman Deborah 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.”
Currently, in the US, texting while driving is banned in 35 states and the District of Columbia, while making or receiving calls on a hand-help phone is banned in nine. Currently, no states bar the use of hands-free devices.
But the NTSB says this isn’t good enough, citing an accident last year in Missouri in which a texting driver was responsible for two deaths and 38 casualties. It’s issuing a full report.
The driver, the investigation found, had sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes immediately before ploughing into the back of a truck.
Less anecdotally, a study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has found that a safety-critical event is 163 times more likely if a driver is texting, emailing, or accessing the internet.
Where the NHTSA may encounter opposition in its call for a ban is in its decision not to exempt hands-free devices. Internationally, only Japan has a blanket ban of this type, although some US states ban hands-free devices for young drivers.