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Push to Ban Cell Phone Use While Driving Builds

American Government Topics:  National Transportation Safety Board

Push to Ban Cell Phone Use While Driving Builds

Laurel Bowman, VOA News
26 December 2011

In an unprecedented move, the National Transportation Safety Board in the U.S. is recommending that motorists turn off all cell phones while driving. The board, charged with determining the cause of transportation accidents, asks every U.S. state to ban the use of personal electronic devices in cars except in emergencies.

The ban would include hands-free phones; only technology that helps a driver, such as GPS systems, would be allowed. The agency says the ban would make a difference in distracted driving accidents and fatalities.

Elissa’s Schee’s daughter was barely a teenager when a truck driver, distracted by his cell phone, hit her school bus. “Margay was the only child left on the bus and she was dead," she said.

There is no shortage of heart-wrenching tales of families who have lost loved ones in crashes caused by distracted drivers. Jacy Good survived. Her parents did not. “Both my parents were killed instantly. I wasn’t breathing. No one expected I would live past the first 36 hours," she said.

The NTSB’s proposed ban on talking, texting, even using a hands-free phone device while driving, came shortly after this deadly road accident in Missouri. The teenaged driver who caused it sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes just before the crash which killed 2 and injured 38.

“We know that accidents happen in the blink of an eye. You have to be paying attention all the time. You never know what call, what text or what post could be your last if you are doing it behind the wheel," said Deborah Hersman of the NTSB.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 90 percent of drivers support texting bans, and 60 percent favor cell phone bans. The problem is 80 percent say they still do it.

“Drivers recognize that this is a problem, but they still do it because they (think they) are above average. They can handle it. It’s all the crazies out there who can’t handle it and they should get a ticket. We see that all the time in highway safety research," said Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. He says its research shows that phone bans do not reduce accidents or insurance costs, perhaps because drivers are distracted by so many things.

But Rader and other safety experts say crash prevention technology may make a difference. An insurance study found that this Volvo SUV, which brakes automatically if it senses a potential impact, is far less likely to be involved in low-speed crashes than other cars.

When asked about taking the human element out of equation, Rader said "Well that appears to be part of the benefit because drivers don’t always do the right thing in an emergency.”

But self-driving cars aren't here yet. So the U.S. government says put down your phones and drive.

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