The National Transportation Safety Board recommended a nationwide ban on driver use of personal electronic devices Tuesday, following its investigation into a deadly accident last year in Missouri.
NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman discussed the recommendations during a press conference after a meeting on that accident.
“According to [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents,”she said. “It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving.”
While the NTSB investigates transportation and pipeline accidents and makes recommendations on safety rules and regulations, it has no power to implement them.
The NTSB’s recommendations urge all 50 states and the District ”to ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task).” According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 35 states, including Maryland and Virginia, and the District ban texting while driving.
The NTSB has been investigating a deadly crash in Gray Summit, Missouri last year. A 19-year-old pickup driver sent 11 texts in the 11 minutes before before the accident, according to the NTSB, including one “right before impact.” The accident killed two people and injured 38.
“We will never know whether the driver was typing, reaching for the phone, or reading a text when his pickup ran into the truck in front of him without warning,” Hersman said in her opening statement.
“But, we do know he had been distracted — cognitively, manually, and visually — while driving.
“Driving was not his only priority.”
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has also made the distracted driving fight a centerpiece of his tenure in office, recommending that drivers put cellphones in the glove compartment before they begin their journeys.
In the past, LaHood has even proposed that cellphones should carry warning labels because of the danger they pose when used by people who are driving.
“Distracted driving is not only dangerous, deaths and injuries from this reckless practice are preventable,” LaHood said in a statement Tuesday.
“As we look ahead to the holiday driving season and beyond, our message on distracted driving is simple: There’s no call or text message that’s so important that it can’t wait.”
In 2009, nearly 5,500 fatalities and 500,000 injuries resulted from crashes involving a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The NTSB said it investigated the first accident involving a wireless electronic device in 2002, when a driver “distracted by a conversation on her cellphone” crashed and killed five people in Largo. Since then the NTSB has probed several accidents involving distraction, including:
●A 2004 bus accident on the George Washington Parkway that injured 11 high school students;
●A 2008 collision of a commuter train with a freight train in Chatsworth, Calif., where 25 people died and dozens were injured; and
●A 2010 boating accident on the Delaware River in Philadelphia that killed two tourists.
“No call. No text. No update. Is worth a human life,” Hersman said.
What do you think? Weigh in below.