Distracted Driving is the New DUI: NTSB Recommends Full Ban on Cell Phone Use While Driving

A year long investigation into a traffic accident that killed two people in Missouri has found that the 19-year-old driver sent or received 11 text messages in 11 minutes before rear-ending a tractor on the highway. The National Transportation Safety Board said that the accident was a “big red flag” about the dangers of distracted driving and that the accident will help make future safety recommendations.

According to the Associated Press, the driver sent six text messages and received five before slamming his pick-up truck into the back of a tractor at 55 mph. The pick-up was then rear-ended by a bus which was hit by another bus. The 19-year-old pickup driver and a 15-year-old student on one of the buses were killed during the crash. 38 other people were injured.

The crash, which occurred on August 5th 2010 near Gray Summit, Missouri, is now serving as an example for safety recommendations by the NTSB.

According to CNN, the NTSB has just called for a nationwide ban of cell phone use while driving. If states adopt the NTSB’s recommendation, non-emergency phone calls and text messages would be outlawed for every driver on the road.

The NTSB said that the ban would include hands-free headsets. Devices that have already been installed into the vehicle by the manufacturer would be allowed.

NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said:

“This (distracted driving) is becoming the new DUI. It’s becoming epidemic.”

CNN notes that the NTSB’s cellphone ban is merely a recommendation. Safety recommendations made by the board, however, have played an important role in creating new traffic safety laws.

In a recent report, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that at any given moment during the day, there are about 13.5 million drivers using hand-held phones. The NHTSA also estimated that 3,092 roadway fatalities last year were caused by distracted drivers. The organization says that the number could be much higher since people often won’t admit they were using a cell phone or because the distracted driver was killed in the crash.

NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said:

“Needless lives are lost on our highways, and for what? Convenience? Death isn’t convenient… So we can stay more connected? A fatal accident severs that connection.”

Do you think drivers should be banned from using cell phones?