The National Transportation Safety Board just made an official recommendation for all U.S. States to ban the use of cell phones, both texting or talking. They went a step further, though, and also recommended the banning of "all" hands-free devices as well. NTSB chairman Deborah Hersan said, “It’s going to be very unpopular with some people,” she said. “We’re not here to win a popularity contest. We’re here to do the right thing. This is a difficult recommendation, but it’s the right recommendation and it’s time.” Hersan added, “No call, no text, no update is worth a human life."
Their recommendation to outright ban all devices is surprising, since it is the first suggestion of its kind, rather than just a partial ban to allow hands-free talking. States are not required to follow the recommendations of the NTSB, and can choose to implement parts of their recommendations or ignore them. In fact, the issue has been called a "political non-starter" by State Senator Joe Simitian of California. Interestingly, he was actually instrumental in getting the first law passed in 2006 that bans drivers in California from talking on a hand-held phone while driving. Yet, he added that he would not attempt to propose a total ban on drivers using their devices.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, nine states currently ban the use of hand-held phones, and 35 states ban texting while driving. There are additional concerns regarding an outright ban within the automotive industry. Several car companies are already implementing hands-free communications systems directly into their future automobiles. Here's a quote from the NYTimes Article with more details,
The NTSB chairwoman, Ms. Hersman, pointed out that the safety concerns were not just about keeping drivers hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, but should also make sure that people focus on the act of driving. She said, “It’s about cognitive distraction. It’s about not being engaged at the task at hand. Lives are being lost in the blink of an eye. You can’t take it back, you can’t have a do over, and you can’t rewind.”A complete ban on phone use by drivers would have enormous impact on many car makers that are offering integrated hands-free, voice-activated systems that allow drivers to talk and do other tasks, like calling up their phone directory.
The Alliance for Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group for the industry, said in a statement that it was reviewing the N.T.S.B. recommendations. But it also defended the integrated systems, saying they allow drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road while they remain connected.
“What we do know is that digital technology has created a connected culture in the United States and it’s forever changed our society: consumers always expect to have access to technology; so managing technology is the solution,” the alliance said in a statement.
Weigh in your perspective on this complex issue.