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POLL: National Board Recommends Banning Phone Calls While Driving

Do you think cell phone calls behind the wheel are dangerous?

It soon may be harder to make phone calls while driving around town. The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended states ban drivers from using cell phones and hands-free devices, including wireless headsets.

There currently is no state that has outright banned such devices while driving. The board said that drivers faced serious risks from talking on wireless headsets, just as they do by taking a hand off the wheel to hold a phone to their ear.

According to an article in today's New York Times, the National Transportation Safety Board based its recommendation on evidence of numerous crashes in which electronic distraction was a major contributing factor.

The New York Times articles stated that many polls show that while people continue to use their devices behind the wheel, they also widely consider such behavior to be extremely dangerous.

The ban is also noteworthy because it is the first call by a federal agency to end the practice completely, rather than the partial ban that some legislators have put in place by allowing hands-free talking, the New York Times wrote.

William Laforme (Editor) December 21, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Somebody's been waiting all week to use the term "disassociated" in a sentence!
john December 21, 2011 at 04:40 PM
My responses are not pointless. I have never and will never own a cell phone but I am affected by others who do.
Jack December 22, 2011 at 07:21 PM
"if it even saves one life, it's worth it in my book. " Saving lives is easy. 4,500 motorcyclists are killed on the roads every year - ban motorcycles and you save 4,500 of them. People drown in rip tides every year - ban swimming off beaches and all those lives are saved... easy isn't it? If your number one priority is "saving lives" and making life as regulated, controlled, risk free and safe as possible then that's fine - it's not mine though. It all comes down to "indoor cat / outdoor cat". You can keep a cat indoors and it will never be run over, killed by a coyote, attacked by another cat, lost or stolen. It will however live a half life in a domestic prison - the ultimate regulation. My vote is for less government, more personal responsibility and if that means life is a little more dangerous, so be it.
Diane Healey December 22, 2011 at 07:24 PM
Amen for not wanting to be told what to do or live in some PC bubble!
Jared Robinson December 22, 2011 at 08:11 PM
they just need to police the laws that are already in place and increase the fines for them because so few are getting caught. You tell someone that if they get caught on a phone or texting while driving that they're going to be paying $200-400/year more for every time they get caught, I bet they'll stop on their own. The difference between the 4500 cyclists and the riptides is that many of those are a single victim incident. Many car accidents claim multiple victims. Give people more of a reason to think about picking up that phone to text while they're doing 85 on the highway.
Robert Gates (Editor) December 22, 2011 at 09:39 PM
The Detroit News reported yesterday that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will not back a national ban on the use of hands free cell phone use in vehicles: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20111221/AUTO01/112210401/1361/LaHood-won-t-back-NTSB-push-to-bar-hands-free-calls
Jack December 22, 2011 at 10:20 PM
"The difference between the 4500 cyclists and the riptides is that many of those are a single victim incident. Many car accidents claim multiple victims." I though if it saved ONE life, it would be worth it? I think a death is just as much a tragedy whether it happens as a single victim or in multiples - 4,500 motorcyclists is a big multiple it would seem to me... should motorcycles be banned, or are those deaths acceptable as they happen spread out over a year (it's still 13 every day)? The answer is, of course not. The job of government is not to wrap us in cotton wool to protect us from ourselves. We are living real, lives here, we're not in a huge kindergarten. "Give people more of a reason to think about picking up that phone to text while they're doing 85 on the highway." This I agree with - but not by banning phones, by teaching people personal responsibility and good sense. I assume you want to ban eating and drinking in cars, changing CDs, checking a GPS for directions and having small fussy children in the back seat? Sure prosecute idiots for distracted driving, but let's not legislate the entire population just because some people are incapable of good decisions.
Jared Robinson December 22, 2011 at 10:24 PM
explain what you think the NHTSA is recommending by putting a 'ban' on them vs what I'm saying in terms of enforcement and increased penalties that would include higher fines and moving violations. What exactly do you expect is going to happen with this ban? It's already against the law to have a phone up against your ear or drive distracted... If the police observe you with a video playing in view of the driver, you will be pulled over and ticketed.
Jared Robinson December 22, 2011 at 10:27 PM
sorry, the NTSB, not the NHTSA...
Jared Robinson December 22, 2011 at 10:28 PM
Also, keep in mind the NTSB is simply suggesting that the entire country have the same laws for driving and texting/talking. Massachusetts already has laws that prohibit this. Additionally, the NTSB is suggesting that all devices including hands-free be included in the law... I'm not 100% sure I agree with this.
Jack December 22, 2011 at 11:25 PM
There is no hand held cell phone use ban in Massachusetts - nor should there be. Driving distracted (for any reason) of course is illegal - and should be. If you are referring to a GPS as a "video playing in view of the driver" then no, it's not illegal. If you mean a video player - well obviously! As to hands free cell phones being illegal - that is the very definition of idiotic laws and over regulation and currently exists no where. Source: http://www.iihs.org/laws/cellphonelaws.aspx
john December 23, 2011 at 01:28 AM
There is one reason we need a law of some kind to regulate cell phones while driving and that is if I get run over and killed by some person ditracted by his phone someone needs to be held accountable and the courts need leverage to make sure they are prosecuted.
Jack December 23, 2011 at 02:40 AM
John - they would be. Negligent driving and driving while distracted or impaired, is of course illegal regardless of the reason. Just because talking on the phone is legal, it doesn't mean that driving negligently because of a phone, and subsequently killing someone is also legal! What part of this do people not understand? Legislating against every possible thing that may cause idiots to drive negligently is an absurd and pointless exercise - do you really advocate making all our laws aimed at the lowest common denominator? As previously stated, you presumably want to legislate against drinking, eating, following GPS directions, having children in the back, changing a CD or a myriad of reasons poor drivers may be distracted - or do you mind being killed particularly by an idiot cell phone user rather than anything else?
john December 23, 2011 at 03:58 AM
If driving while impaired is illegal but driving while talking is not then how can anyone prove negligence? The law needs to be changed so a person cannot get off on a manslaughter charge. I don't think that drinking water or eating a candy bar requires the amount of distraction to the human brain that talking on a phone does. Where do you stand on the seat belt law. Again I think under your opinion you cannot prosecute a cell phone driver in an accident because you fell it is legal. You can't file charges for something that is not illegal.
Jack December 23, 2011 at 04:20 AM
John - you 100% misunderstand my point. Negligent driving, distracted driving and impaired driving is illegal - that's not my opinion, it's the law. If you are changing a CD, talking on the phone, disciplining a kid in the back seat, spilling your coffee or doing anything else legal at the time and it makes you drive negligently, that's illegal. The law for that is in place. You just want to add layers of legislation and regulation to attempt to prevent it in people who are incompetent. I do not feel we need the government to treat us like small children, just because some people are idiots. The seat belt law is a totally different issue and irrelevant to this discussion.
Laura Kernan December 23, 2011 at 02:08 PM
Here is some information about cell phone laws in Europe. http://handsfreeinfo.com/european-cell-phone-texting-roundup And a list of European countries where using a cell phone while driving is banned. http://seniortravel.about.com/od/travelsafety/qt/Distracted-Driving-Laws-In-Europe.htm
Laura Kernan December 23, 2011 at 02:16 PM
"The job of government is not to wrap us in cotton wool to protect us from ourselves." The issue is not protecting ourselves from our own behavior. It's protecting others from our behavior. People accept the risk to themselves of driving a motorcycle or swimming at a beach, it is not an inherent risk to others. Driving while using a cell phone is.
Jack December 23, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Laura, that's an excellent point and well put. I still maintain that driving while speaking on the phone is not inherently dangerous - the vast majority of people (myself included) do it all the time with no distraction at all. In the gamut of things that people do in cars, it's just one more thing that incompetent idiots may find distracting. Should we make talking to kids in the back seat illegal? Refereeing kid's disputes from the drivers seat? Checking a GPS for turn directions? Eating? Drinking? Like it or nor, this is a Nanny State issue and it is legislating to the lowest common denominator. If your philosophy is that we need to limit the rights of everyone, to stop the idiots doing certain things, for the greater common good, then I accept that as a thought out and considered argument. I don't agree with it in principle, but I do see where you're coming from. My problem with that is my antipathy towards more government intrusion and regulations, less freedom and less focus on personal responsibility - and the kind of idiots it is geared towards will ignore it anyway.
john December 23, 2011 at 05:59 PM
I din't think I misunderstand this issue.I do think that some people are so attached to their phone any legal limits would be like loosing an arm.The MBTA has banned(and fired) drivers from using phones. The police already check cell phone records at certain accidents to see if the driver was talking. You may be an expert at driving while talking but the general public should not be exposed to those who are not.
Jack December 23, 2011 at 07:49 PM
John - I didn't say you misunderstood the "issue" - it's a matter of opinion and you have your opinion. I said you misunderstood my "point" - big difference - which was that negligent driving is a crime whether or not the reason for being negligent is a legal activity or not. You seem to deliberately avoid understanding that. MBTA drivers are at work, there is no reason for them to be on their personal phones while they are driving the public and in the workplace- it's a different issue and a red herring. Of course police check cell phone records at crash sites - they want to know why the accident occurred. They want to know why EVERY accident occurred. If they discovered it was because the driver spilt hot coffee in their lap would you want to ban drinking coffee in the car? None of us want to "be exposed" to negligent drivers (whatever the reason). There are laws on the books against negligent driving, let's use them to prosecute distracted and negligent drivers. This rush to increased regulation and more government intrusion as a default solution to cure societie's ills doesn't sit well with me at all - I worry for those who want to live in a Big Brother world where all risk is removed at the expense of liberty and personal freedom.
Dan D. December 23, 2011 at 10:11 PM
Banning cell phone has had NO impact on accidents, according to this report: http://www.iihs.org/news/rss/pr012910.html. Don't you love actual facts! While the research can't figure out why, it certainly shows that such laws are a waste of time, money and energy. This article mentions that some are speculating that hands free (which is not banned anywhere) may be a culprit in not reducing accidents, but other speculation may be that people who are prone to careless use of cell phones while driving will also be prone to other careless behavior when behind the wheel. Everyone knows people who are "accident prone". These folks are not victims of some cosmic force of bad luck, but usually are careless, easily distracted ("oh look, puffy clouds!") types. So why would a government agency ignore actual facts? Any guesses??
john December 23, 2011 at 10:31 PM
I recall a REPORT from the CIA that said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. I tend to rely on what I see rather than what I read. I saw a lady screaming into her phone as she passed a stopped school bus that was letting kids off.
Jack December 24, 2011 at 12:26 AM
John - I see all sorts of things that are potentially (or actually) dangerous, should we legislate for the whole population based on your experience of seeing a woman distracted by her phone? Clearly, you want legislation based purely on things that you have SEEN (as opposed to any actual data, which you mistrust) this seems like an unsound basis for making Federal or State laws and regulations. I once saw an actual crash based on the fact that a dog in the car went crazy after seeing another dog on the sidewalk - I guess we should ban people having dogs in their cars now based on that experience? This is obviously getting silly and it got that way the second someone suggested an outright cell phone ban in case someone got bad news while driving! Clearly we all have different concepts of freedom, liberty, personal responsibility and the role of government in micromanaging every detail of our lives - hopefully calm heads will prevail.
john December 24, 2011 at 01:11 AM
The someone you refer to was me and I think the majority of people will take my side.Your example of the dog causing an accident simply proves my point that some people can't drive and handle any other situation at the same time. Your dog goes crazy, your kid gets sick or your phone rings, pull over.It is rude to not pay attention to other drivers while you yak on the phone. I simply want laws to prosecute people who talk on the phone and threaten public safety.As I said I don't own a cell phone so my opinion will not change but I do think the laws will eventualy ban talking on a cell phone while driving. Maybe you should have to register as a cell phone driver with your insurence company so you can be charged extra for your dangerous habit.
Jack December 24, 2011 at 01:24 AM
John - this gets sillier and sillier, so I'll make one last comment and respectfully leave it there. We all know that some drivers can't drive and handle any other situation at the some time - this is obvious. Be it drinking coffee, dealing with feisty dogs, dealing with cranky kids, following a GPS, changing a CD, talking to passengers... this is hardly a novel discovery. You have focused in on one of hundreds of potential distractions - by comparison a pretty minor one - and have decided it should be banned for all drivers, because SOME drivers can't deal with ANY distraction. It's an unsupportable argument, and the minute you start talking about "receiving bad news" it loses all credibility. Maybe passengers should be banned from breaking bad news to the driver also - a girlfriend breaking up with her driving boyfriend could easily cause an accident, we need to get the government involved there somehow too.
Laura Kernan December 24, 2011 at 01:49 PM
Only it is not really an unsupportable argument, because there are a lot of studies that back up the fact that driving while using a cellphone (even a hands free device) increases your risk of having an accident. So it IS supportable. I'm not really for legislating behavior either and your point that there are a lot of other ways to be distracted while driving is important, but if a preponderance of evidence points to one behavior being the cause of many accidents than maybe it is reasonable to legislate. For example, we legislate speed limits. This is because we know that many people cannot control their car well past a certain speed. Sure, some people can. F1 racers sure can, but unfortunately if we set the speed limit for F1 racers, there'd probably be a lot more accidents.
Laura Kernan December 24, 2011 at 01:58 PM
One thing that is important to remember, is that one study does not make a fact. This is an interesting and useful starting point, but one study may be flawed for various reasons, some of which the researchers themselves point out in this article. If one study made a fact we wouldn't have needed hundreds of studies to say that cigarette smoking causes cancer, for example. Or conversely, we could have decided that it didn't based on the results of one study. I suspect that in the coming years we will see more studies of this type and when we have a number of them we'll have a basis on which to make a decision of whether banning cell phone use makes a difference in the number of accidents occurring.
Dan D. December 24, 2011 at 03:06 PM
This is more fun than anyone could imagine! From the "Facts are the enemies of truth (I saw someone once get distrated by a phone so it MUST be a universal problem)" to the "I'll wait until another study shows I'm right in my pre-concevied notion (so I'll ignore anything that shows I might be wrong)" arguments, we start to see why we have such a disfunctional, overreaching state and federal government! Don't bother me with facts, I know what feels "right"!
Tyler Jozefowicz December 26, 2011 at 01:17 AM
Apparently it's not working. I don't like people with the cellphone glued to their ear coming at me in the opposite direction on a divided highway, doing about 60 mph. Drivers' licenses are a privilege. You wanna talk? Do it without a drivers' wheel in one hand. Problem ameliorated with a little " fathering".
John Intorcio December 26, 2011 at 01:59 PM
Maybe you were reading the wrong articles? There's a pile of scientific data. Some here: http://www.distraction.gov/content/get-the-facts/research.html


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