The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) this week called for a complete, total ban on both talking on cell phones (even hands-free), and texting, by drivers. The recommendation, intended to reduce accidents resulting from “distracted driving” followed the Federal agency’s review of accidents resulting from a distracted driver – a problem so serious that the NTSB says that at any moment during any day, approximately 13.5 million drivers are using a cellphone.
Last year alone, nearly 3100 fatal accidents were known to be the result of distracted drivers, and the number of accidents attributable to talking or texting drivers is undoubtedly far higher when you include non-fatal accidents, and consider that few drivers will admit that they were texting or on the phone behind the wheel.
According to one NTSB members, Robert Sumwalt, distracted driving “is becoming the new DUI. It’s becoming epidemic.”
In one of the accidents in 2010, the 19-year-old driver of a pickup that smashed into a tractor trailer, leading to a pile-up that also included two school buses, had received five text messages – and sent six text messages – during the 11 minutes leading up to the accident. Thirty-eight people were injured in that accident – and two were killed.
“Needless lives are lost on our highways, and for what? Convenience? Death isn’t convenient,” said NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman. “So we can stay more connected? A fatal accident severs that connection.”
Only 10 states currently ban holding a cell phone in your hand while driving, although 35 states ban texting while driving. But if the NTSB has its way, nobody will be allowed to have a phone in their hand while they are driving, unless it’s truly an emergency.
And we say it’s about time.