Feds Call for Ban on Driver Cellphone Use

Feds Call for Ban on Driver Cellphone UseThe National Traffic Safety Board, in the wake of a fatal crash in Missouri, is recommending today that all states ban the use of cellphones by drivers, even if using a hands-free device, except in case of emergency.

"No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life," NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman said at a news conference Tuesday in Washington.

The NTSB is making the recommendation after an investigation of an August 2010 crash in Gray’s Summit, Mo., that killed two and injured 38. The accident involved a pickup truck, two school buses and other vehicles. Blame was laid on the pickup driver, 19, who sent or received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes before the crash.

According to MSNBC, only 10 states ban handheld devices right now, and 35 ban texting while driving.  The NTSB’s recommendation does not carry the force of law, and it would not include GPS devices. The ban would cover any texting or talking by drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving contributed to more than 3,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2010.

US calls for ban on in-car phone use ... even with Bluetooth (MSNBC)

By Patrick Olsen | December 13, 2011 | Comments (40)



Notice the driver was texting. I am all for banning texting while driving. But talking? We talk to our passengers, kids in the back seat and holler at the stupid things drivers all around us do. Talking(not dialing or reading texts or emails) is not that dangerous. the imbeciles can't seem to understand that talking on a hands free device is nothing like texting but they insist on grouping them together. There are many other things that cause deaths that they should be spending their time and our money researching and banning.

The NTSB says one life is worth the ban. If you carry out that logic...than if we ban cars entirely how many lives would we save?

Chris K

I don't intend to make a personal attack, but I don't know how anyone could have driven while talking on a cell phone or have seen someone do it and not conclude that it is dangerous.

I hate to wave the "common sense" stick around, but the difference in driving behavior is so dramatic that I can't fathom how people would argue that it's not a handicap. I could see how people might want to do it anyway, or how they might think that they're just better drivers and aren't affected like others, but to say cell phone use while driving is not a significant handicap? Really? Do you just not drive?

I'm all for a complete ban of all cell phone use while operating a moving car. I'm happy to give it up, especially if it keeps me or others from getting killed by a too-busy Excursion driver.

Ted B

The complete report from the NTSB also states that the buses had faulty brakes. Also in every state rear-ending a vehicle makes it the fault of the driver in the following vehicle. Yet somehow the NTSB finds that it's the fault of the texting teen even though the bus drivers were not in control of their vehicles enough to stop. Don't get me wrong, texting while driving is stupid and should be stopped. But trying to use this accident as an excuse to ban all telecommunications while driving, is merely a board with an agenda using a tragedy to accomplish something that would not sound reasonable at any other time. Texting while driving is already illegal. Now lets go after school systems that don't keep their equipment up to basic standards and put people in danger. What ever the driver of the pickup was doing, the drivers of the buses were at fault for not stoppng in time.


@chris k

If you don't want to make it a personal attack then just state your opinion and don't make it personal.

My point was that texting is tremendously different and more dangerous than talking on a HANDS-FREE device. Notice I said hands free. My other point is that I don't believe hand-free talking on a cell phone is more dangerous than talking and sometimes looking at passenger or kids in the back seat. How many times have you seen people hollering at kids in the back seat while looking in their rear veiw mirror? Reading, eating, putting make-up on, shaving. All these things are more dangerous IMO than talking on a speaker while driving. If common sense is to be used....lets use as it applies to all these things and not just to cell phones.


Ted B did you actually read the article, the teen actually crashed into the back of a ractor truck, beginning a chain collision.

Chris K

I wasn't trying to, Lance. It's just tough to say the opposite of what you said right after you said it without making it sound like I was coming after you, which I was not.

Not watching the road is very dangerous. That's already illegal. It's called inattentive driving.

Taking to people in the car is a distraction. And of course looking at them while talking to them is again inattentive driving.

I believe talking to people on cell phones is more dangerous than talking to people in the car. Hands-free or not. A quick Google search can turn up a lot of research supporting this, like:


I agree that other things you mentioned, like reading/make-up/etc are also very dangerous. If a police officer notices a driver doing these things, the driver should get a ticket for inattentive driving. Where you and I differ is that I believe cell phone use should fall into that same category.


If I said it once I've said it 100 times:

I honestly feel that there is no issue to drive while on the phone. For those of you who feel so strongly against me, help pay for me to put a camera in my car, and that way one of us will prove the other.

Also, I've stated 100 times, it's more distracting for me to reach for a radio or climate control knob than it is to text and drive (then again, I have to look for the knob, yet I keep my eyes on the road while texting)


"It appears that there is no difference between
passenger conversations compared to remote conversations in
their negative impact on driving performance."

@chris k

The above was taken from the study you referenced. I guess we need to outlaw passengers or at least make it illegal to talk to them as it affects driving very similarly.

My real point in all this is that we do have, like you say, laws which would cover all these situations and more laws is not the answer. I do belive that talking on a handsfree, looking straight down the road is no more distracting(or dangerous) than talking to passengers(which the study concluded)and less dangerous than many of these other things. And there are no specific laws against eating, talking to passengers, make-up etc so why should we single out hands free phone use? If someone is driving dangerously....nail em. Otherwise leave people alone.


While some of you may think youre in complete control while just talking (not even texting) that may be true. However, the majority I've seen are not. The alertness of the driver decreases when theyre using a mobile phone, even if theyre just talking. If it's that important then just pull over. I'd wager most of the time its not that important. If youre in a car then DRIVE. Whats with all the unnecessary multi-tasking? So we can feel busy?


How would you even monitor the use of hands-free talking? There's no way that an officer could tell the difference between me speaking through my car's Bluetooth or just singing along to the radio. This is getting ridiculous


Singing along with the radio provides distraction and therefore should be BANNED!!!



Just from my own experience, I do not like talk on my phone while I'm driving. Usually I'll call my wife before I leave work to let her know I'm on my way home and see if she needs me to pick anything up. Anything else can wait until I get where I'm going.

It seems that you're brain goes into auto pilot mode behind the wheel, if you're on the phone.

Literally if my phone rings and I have a 5 minute conversation or whatever, once I hang up I think to myself "where did the last 5 minutes go, cuz I don't remember driving."

It's really kind of scary when you think about it. Who knows how many near misses you could have had and have been completely oblivious to while on the phone.

And I think I remember seeing an episode of Mythbusters that showed that there was literally no difference between hand held and hands free attentiveness to the road.

The thing that makes talking to a passenger completely different is the fact that the passenger can see what you see and will stop talking/start yelling if something bad is about to happen.

Chris K

Lance, that's quite out of context. That passage appears in a section talking about other people's studies on the subject. The study's own findings state much differently:

> Overall, the study clearly documents that relative to a driving
> only condition, cell phone use negatively impacts lane keeping,
> increases the headway and leads to an impairment in a navigation
> task while passenger conversations have only little effect on all of
> the three measures.

I don't think more laws are necessary, either. Our current laws cover this problem. I believe talking on a cell phone should be cause for a ticket for inattentive driving. No gray area. Ticket. Of course someone with a hamburger or mascara or a book in their hands should be cited for the same.

As Card13 said, the problem is enforcement. I see people speeding 10mph or more, not blinking, running reds, and driving erratically, and the cops just ignore them. Clearly there's a breakdown in the system if the police cannot or will not enforce traffic laws. This will be one more of those cases, but you WILL get some compliance simply because it is illegal, just like many people won't do any more than 5mph over the speed limit even on a road they know they cannot possibly be pulled over for speeding.


Brandon got it right. There are many people who can't even handle just talking to the people in the car. I ride with some people that can't talk without turning their head. I think some people's brains can't prioritize properly no matter what they're doing. For many including myself, we can talk in the car, but frequently completely block the conversation if we need 100% attention on the driving. For many others, the conversation takes priority. Some drive slower and more conservatively when talking, some don't.

Whether it's a for holding a cheeseburger, latte, or a cellphone, I think cops should be able to pull people over for failure to keep control of their vehicle (they already can, they just don't...preferring to give speeding tickets instead.)


I agree with Lance on the talking thing. That to me has always been no different than when there are people in the car - in fact, usually when there are people in the car I get pretty involved in a conversation and find myself very distracted. I have run a couple stop signs or almost have while doing that, bc find it noticeably more distracting than a cell phone. both involve looking at the road while listening to and talking to another person. functionally there not really different.


Chris K,

I am with Lance on this, and I do not think he took it at all out of context. I have read these other studies and they showed a clear correlation between doing anything other than straight-up focusing on driving and decreased driving performance.

If you think ALL cellphone usage needs to be illegal, 'period', 'ticket', then so does talking in the car. It's unreasonable and unnecessary.

Instead of making (and having the audacity to enforce) dumb laws like that, how about pushing better driver training up front, to make new (or even existing) drivers develop better skills and engender safer habits? I've seen plenty of people who don't even need a cellphone to still manage to run me off the darn road with their gross incompetence and complete lack of situational awareness.

SQL Dave

Take this for what it's worth. I conducted a (very non-scientific) "study" starting in the early days of cell phones when the initial hysteria about their use while driving began. The study was this:
1) When I noticed someone talking on a cell phone, I closely observed their driving behavior (as closely as I could while still being safe myself!)

2) When I noticed someone driving "badly" (loose lane integrity, tailgating, not signaling, etc.) I made note of whether or not they were using a phone.

I did this for about 10 years, off and on.

In the VAST majority of cases, drivers in #1 were driving in a totally safe manner. And in the VAST majority of cases, drivers in #2 were NOT on the phone.

Anecdotal, yes. But consider one more thought: if cell phones are indeed that hazardous, then when the cell phone usage explosion happened (and continues to happen) we should have seen a commensurate increase in traffic accidents... yet we did not. That, combined with my "study" lead me to my own personal conclusion that cell phone use is at the same level as tuning a radio.

(Note: I'm excluding texting from my "study" and conclusion, for reasons so obvious they need not be repeated here).

Now, consider this: There *IS* a factor in driving which, in 2009, lead to about 200 traffic fatalities PER WEEK.

Let me repeat:

Imagine if a small airliner crashed every week, killing 200 people! The outcry would be deafening. All flights would stop until we figured out the problem.

But instead, we blithely ignore this TOTALLY FIXABLE problem and allow
to die from it
so that we can focus on, you know, Evil Cell Phone Usage (tm).

I'm sure you've guessed that this other WAY MORE SERIOUS driving issue is drunk driving. If we want to make our roads safer, let's try REALLY cracking down on that (as opposed to the lip-service, taxpayer-funded "scare" ads warning drunk drivers that "you drink and drive, you go to jail". What a crock THAT is.)

But back to cell phones. I believe there is a near-maniacal effort to ban all cell phone use in cars, regardless of reality. One way they're doing this is conveniently lumping texting and talking together, under "cell phone usage".

How many people were killed in cell-phone-usage-related traffic accidents?
According to this site:
about 5500 traffic deaths in 2009 were caused by "distracted driving". (Notice the trend: First it was "talking on cell phones is bad"...then they lumped texting in with talking... and now ALL of that is combined with "distracted driving" to make the numbers as large as possible). However, less than 900 of those were caused by distraction-by-cell-phone (again, they don't separate talking from texting, in an effort -- IMO -- to demonize ALL phone usage). The site does say "However, the number of fatalities caused by cell phone use could be much higher.", without offering any reasoning.

The site further interleaves talking/texting statistics, as if they were equally bad:
* Talking on a cell phone while driving can make a young driver’s reaction time as slow as that of a 70-year-old.
* Answering a text takes away your attention for about five seconds. That is enough time to travel the length of a football field.

Finally, I'm not buying into the notion that cell phone use (TALKING) is as bad as drunk driving. If it was, in 2009 we'd have seen way more than 900 cell-phone-related deaths (and remember: that 900 number INCLUDES texting). I'd bet the number would be closer to the 10,000 we see due to drunk drivers.

In closing, I fully recognize that ONE accidental death is too many. But there seems to be a political-correctness odor about the talking-on-cell-phones issues (again, not texting) that I find disturbing. I agree with some of the prior posters: We already have laws on the books to cover this.


CB radios were around a long time. How is hands free talking any different from that? Talking is taking it too far if they're going to include hands free device.


Maybe I missed a comment already made on this aspect of the issue, but I talk on the phone (handsfree) all the time when I'm driving at night because I am usually exhausted and that is the only way I can stay awake. It is much more effective than loud music, cold air, eating while driving, or even singing. I have to drive because that is the only way to get home. Talking on the phone seems much safer than driving "safely", falling asleep, and running into something or someone.

Chris K

I guess the thing that baffles me about this whole discussion is (and I'm being completely earnest here) how people's ideas about cell phone use while driving is so completely opposite of the reality of cell phone use that I (and anyone I talk to) see on the road every day.

I'd say that if I see someone do something stupid on the road (cut someone off, start to pull out then see another car and stop, turn from the wrong lane, veer to make an exit, wander, etc) it's even money that they're talking on a cell phone. Considering the vast majority of drivers are not talking on cell phones while driving at any given time, does this not point to a strong correlation suggesting that drivers on cell phones are more likely to make mistakes?

I understand that this may be mere correlation (for example, people who own cell phones might trend younger, and might tend to be worse drivers), and that my anecdotal evidence isn't scientific. But what I see is SO overwhelming that I can't help wonder: what the heck are you all seeing on the road that's so different than me? Are you all in big cities stuck in stop and go where it doesn't matter? Do you drive in areas where the drivers are so much better? Are you all just on your cell phones and don't notice how badly everyone around you is driving? (I kid! I kid!) :)

I guess I'm feeling kind of like I'm on a different planet here to find people saying that cell phone usage while driving isn't a problem. To me this isn't like a Coke vs Pepsi thing, it's more like an "is the sky blue" thing.


"The thing that makes talking to a passenger completely different is the fact that the passenger can see what you see and will stop talking/start yelling if something bad is about to happen."

Exactly! I dont like talking while driving, even on a hands free device. Its totally different when you're talking to someone who doesn't see the cars and people around you.

Chris K

SQL Dave, just because there are other problems, and those problems might be bigger, doesn't mean we shouldn't target smaller problems and try to solve them.

You don't stop flushing the toilet because the furnace went out, ya know? :)


Chris K,

In all honesty, it all depends on who you ask. Forgive me everyone, but the people that I see as the worse drivers (pulling out in front of me, etc) are senior citizens and handicapped. My parents each have their own stereotype they notice when there's a bad driver.

It's all in the location and your surroundings.


I don't see how you can pinpoint talking on a cell phone as a major problem. There are a host of distractions when driving, including, the radio, climate control, billboards, and passengers. Are we going to make all of those illegal too? There is absolutely no correlation between cell phone use and bad driving. If you are saying that there is, then please justify why we have allowed truck drivers to talk on CB radios for many decades.


I like the idea of banning cars altogether. Motorcycles and the like only. Got a family? Buy a sidecar. People in cars are just too isolated and protected in comparison to the damage that the driver can do to everything around him. OK, my solution is impractical - you may drive a car or SUV so long as a razor sharp spike can be mandatorily installed on the steering column.


Also, something that I can't believe is not being discussed: The teen rear-ended the truck, which started the accident, but what is the bus drivers' excuse? Why wasn't the bus driver able to stop in time before colliding with the teen's car and the truck? Were they following too close? Were they distracted by something? This is an important detail that is left out to try to sensationalize the cell phone use.


And all you silly people bringing up existing distractions (people in the car, CBs?!?) and saying if you ban cell phone use you have to ban these other things: you are embracing a false dichotomy. Cellphone use in the car is a huge relatively new phenomenon, hugely more adopted than CB use. By trying to ban this behavior, to try to eliminate a major distraction from many drivers. Would that distraction be replaced by the other distractions you cite? Maybe, but not a majority of the time. Enforcement will prove difficult, but laws have a natural societal effect too: some people do not like to break the law, simply from societal stigma or personal preference.


Did someone actually post that they routinely drive exhausted so talking on the phone is the best way to stay awake? Wow. I find that beating my children senseless is the only way I can keep the voices from driving me into a homicidal rage. Time to figure out how to change your life in such a way that routinely driving exhausted is not part of it.



Some people have to work long long hours at their job, or for whatever reason they have to drive exhausted. It's not their choice. I'm glad you have it so good that you're never a problem to anyone else, but some people weren't as lucky as you.


I disagree that it is a false dichotomy. The number of people doing something should not be the determining factor on whether or not something is illegal. This would be like saying, a lot of people murder with guns, but hardly any murders happen with pillows, so it's not illegal to murder with a pillow, just with a gun.

I'm not saying that using a cell phone is not a distraction. I'm saying that using a cell phone while driving is no more of a distraction than a lot of other things. To justify making cell phones illegal, then you would need to justify why you would allow these other things to continue going on.

Robert Lee

I could probably easily carry a conversation via bluetooth while ripping through an SCCA Solo2 circuit and not miss a beat. Guess we better ban radios in race cars, eh? We wouldn't want NASCAR, Formula 1, or other race car drivers getting distracted, right?

How about instead, we ban STUPID PEOPLE from driving? If you're stupid enough to be reading the paper while driving, doing your makeup, eating lunch, texting, or a myriad of other idiotic things which take your hands off the wheel and could cause a crash, GET OFF THE ROAD!

Making talking on the phone illegal won't prevent people from doing it. Advanced driver's ed training and harsher consequences for causing a crash would be more effective deterrents. All my friends who've at least done a track day or some kind of advanced driver training, especially my motorcyclist buddies, are much better drivers than those who haven't done any training since high school. Hell, some of the motorcyclists even have bluetooth phone in their helmets.


If we criminalize talking on cell phones while in cars only criminals will be talking on cell phones in cars. Think about that!


Several independent studies have shown that speaking on the phone, even hands free is still far more distracting than speaking to a passenger (http://www.nsc.org/safety_road/Distracted_Driving/Documents/Dstrct_Drvng_White_Paper_1_2011.pdf). Nobody would sanely argue that texting is safe while driving under any circumstances. I know from personal experience as an avid bicyclist that since the advent of the cell phone my "near misses" at the hands of distracted drivers has increased ten-fold, at least. And, yes, you can see them chatting away on their cells, or speaking "to the air" on their hands-free device, completely obvious to having just run me off the road. But the sad truth is, even with the ban here in California (and elsewhere, I imagine) people just ignore the law because they know their changes of being caught are almost non-existent. There just isn't enough enforcement to make a dent on the problem of the clue-less, the selfish, or the just plain brain-dead. It should be treated just like drunk driving with equivalent penalties, and opprobrium. Make them pay, and at least some will take the hint.

Robert H. Pike

It's about time. It'll immediately lower accident rates, lower insurance bills (and eventually, rates) hospital bills and most immportantly - human suffering. Didn't the car talk guys offer a bumper sticker about this? SUPPORT THIS, AMERICANS!


It's about time! I call the Cops everytime I see someone texting while driving, and always include the drivers licence plate number along with a snap shot of the driver that is texting.


It may be necessary to install cell phone inhibitors. The technology exists along with the stupidity of cell users.

Andy J. F.

One Sunday morning I went downtown to do a little weekend office work. The streets were nearly vacant. I wlked to the convenience store 2 blocks away and was nearly hit at each of 2 intersections by a motorist running a red light while futzing with their cell phones. Thank god I was paying attention!

This safety measure will never happen. For 60 plus years motorists have been trained to think the road is all about them. They'll blame everything else - trucks, buses, pedestrians, cyclists - for danger and crashes.

The change will never happen.


I think there are far more dangerous distractions than talking on a cell phone while operating a automobile. I'm really tired of seeing people with pets loose in their vehicles while driving down the highway and in city traffic. More than just loose in their car, many of these idiots hold their dogs, cats and other animals on their lap while driving. The first reaction these people would make in an emergency is to save their pet, forget someone crossing the street, another vehicle or whatever.


I hear ya Dave. I lived in Boulder and you have never seen so many people with pets on their laps while driving in your life! That said, the one that really gets me, and makes me more nervous about my kids driving than anything else, is texting while driving. I read an article on texting while driving accidents that made me cringe with fear. I sure hope the human race learns how to adapt to super technology soon...

Scott Gibson

The feds have no buisness in the issue it is each states authority to create laws on this subject. The feds need to get the hell out of our lives

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