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Commentary
12/13/2011
06:43 PM
Eric Zeman
Eric Zeman
Commentary
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Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?

NTSB's controversial vote to ban drivers from using phones for any reason pits convenience against safety. Now it's up to individual states to pass and enforce any legal changes.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) voted Tuesday to ban all drivers from using cellphones for any purpose when behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. This was a controversial vote, but was it a good one?

I vote "yes," but first...

Distractions caused by smartphones can be tied to 25% of automobile accidents in the United States, says the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). Are your workers driving distracted?

Chances are, the answer is yes--and that's what scares the NTSB.

Cellphones and smartphones continue to pose a serious threat to American motorists. A study conducted by the GHSA earlier this year sifted through the data from 350 scientific papers on the subject and concluded that drivers are distracted from the primary task of piloting their vehicle by one thing or another up to half the time.

Using a cellphone at all raises the chances that a driver will cause an accident. Sending text messages while driving is even riskier than using a phone to make calls while driving. The GHSA estimates that distractions account for between 15% and 25% of all crashes, which range from minor fender-benders to accidents involving fatalities.

[ Car accidents are not the only danger posed by cellphones. See Google Boots Fraudware Apps From Android Market. ]

"No call, no text, no update is worth a human life," said Deborah A. P. Hersman, chairman of the NTSB.

Despite all that has been written about driver distraction, there is still a lot that we do not know, said the government report earlier this year. Clearly, more studies need to be done to address both the scope of the problem and how to effectively deal with it.

The GHSA wants individual states to step up efforts to curb distracted driving. It recommends that all states ban texting while driving, as well as ban cellphone use by novice drivers in the car entirely. Further, it says states must do a more effective job of enforcing the laws that are already on the books.

Tuesday's vote by the NTSB takes this to the next level. It recommends that all states ban mobile use by drivers, which means no calls, no texting, no surfing the Web, no using cellphones for any reason when people are behind the wheel.

The issue, however, is up to individual U.S. states to enact into law and then enforce. The NTSB has not yet recommended, for example, that the federal government withhold highway dollars until states enact such legislation.

Businesses that have employees on the road need to take this issue seriously. While equipping fleet drivers, sales professionals, and other traveling employees with smartphones is often necessary, the smart enterprise can take steps to make sure they're not used at the wrong time. Setting up internal use policies is the least measure that should be taken. Make sure employees obey state laws regarding cellphone use in vehicles. Even if cell use isn't banned in your state, your business should probably prohibit it anyway. After all, it's not just the employee who is at risk.

There are plenty of tools available to business and consumer users alike that help manage cellphones when in cars. For example, T-Mobile has recently started offering a service called DriveSmart, which sends incoming calls directly to voicemail and sends canned "I'm driving now, let me call you later" responses to incoming text messages. Even these simple tools can help reduce the impact phone use has when your employees are on the road.

"This is a difficult recommendation, but it's the right recommendation and it’s time," said Hersman.

Speaking personally, this is an issue I pay attention to constantly. I walk around my town a lot. I often come to crosswalks or stop signs where pedestrians have the right of way. I can't count the number of times I've approached such an intersection and noticed a driver completely fail to notice my presence because they were preoccupied with their cellphone.

This is a real issue that, unfortunately, needs to be addressed.

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-- JHtest

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tchall
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tchall,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/15/2011 | 1:51:21 AM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
Much as I HATE having to avoid idiots yakking on their cellphones while pointing their Land Yachts down the roads, and even worse driving in dense traffic doing the same thing... I've got to disagree with this recommendation!

This appears to be just another politically motivated (ambitious civil servants building empires), knee jerk, feel good, "We've got THE ANSWER" announcement that ignores that REAL PROBLEM

Blaming a tool for the workman's failure wouldn't fly anywhere else, and it shouldn't be accepted for this...

PEOPLE are the problem, not the lipstick, electric razor, radio dials, dropped pens (pictures of the cop that climbed a lamp post yesterday are circulating on line), cigarettes in the lap, milk shakes, HOT coffee, and a HOST of other items that cause accidents on a daily basis...

There will be no progress in eliminating "distracted driving" until those working the problem focus on PEOPLE instead of objects.

You can't legislate against stupidity... but you CAN legislate requirements for driver training, put "distracted drivers" on probation programs, and EDUCATE those who are not so willfully ignorant that they insist on being a threat to others...

You can't even see what the driver is doing in all vehicles, but you CAN observe the behavior of the vehicle and determine if the driver is acting in a reckless manner, or showing signs of distraction...

We have laws in ALL 50 states against "reckless" or "distracted" driving... Some states consider them as potential felony charges depending on circumstances.

Maybe we need to enforce laws that punish BAD DRIVERS for what they DO, not Citizens for what they MIGHT do... I would point out that Public Service, Amateur Radios, CBs, corporate mobile radios, and Radio Telephones had been used for decades before cellphones were small enough for users to carry...

That's not justification for the idiots being allowed cellphones... but it is an indication that the problem MIGHT not be the equipment at all...
YMOM100
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YMOM100,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 10:10:28 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
The problem with the Libertarian approach is that police has no means to stop a yapping driver BEFORE a serious accident might occur. Some insurance company dropping someone's policy after they killed a bunch of people may keep the government out of it, but it is a much worse and simply bonehead stupid approach.
YMOM100
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YMOM100,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 10:08:31 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
No, preventing people from doing harm is way better than punishing people for doing harm.
YMOM100
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YMOM100,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 10:07:39 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
Was shown plenty of times including credible studies. Some even come to the conclusion that talking on the phone is worse than being legally drunk.
YMOM100
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YMOM100,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 10:05:26 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
The NTSB didn't ban anything. All the board did was recommend to the states to pass legislation that would. There is a heck of difference!
SabunimB
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SabunimB,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 8:55:34 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
First, put it up for a vote. There is too much government regulation in our lives now. Hands free speech enabled devices should be mandatory. Before you know it you wont be allowed to turn on a radio. If for the folks that say just use a signal suppressor, what about the other passengers. Additionally why are cops allowed to use hand held cell phones when they are driving? Why do the speed when not on a call? There are all ready laws in place for careless driving, why create a new one that folks will not support. So, do we really let the government creep closer into our homes that they already have? This is a very slippery slop.....
golf25radioman
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golf25radioman,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 8:49:26 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
If they ban all cell phone use, especially hands free, then they will have to ban passengers engaging in conversation with the driver. If someone can't drive and converse that has gone too far. I support a zero tolerance to texting & driving, but hands free cellphone? You will have to ban radio use, GPS navigation, etc., then too.
Staten_Islander
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Staten_Islander,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 8:48:02 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
The problem is that most of us think we can multitask, specifically drive while talking. But most of us also think we are better than the average driver.

There is enough persuasive evidence that carrying on any conversation may impair a driver's attentiveness. If we don't have an outright ban, we should really make drivers accountable for their inattentiveness when they cause accidents. There's too much of 'it was just an accident". Heaven help a pedestrian struck by a car in a no-fault state.
ANON1246375404037
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ANON1246375404037,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 8:44:48 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
Now if we could just get law enforcement to put down their cell phones while driving - I observe this every day while driving. It sets a bad example for everyone else and is not safe. Maybe they just can't figure out how to use bluetooth.
ANON1246375404037
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ANON1246375404037,
User Rank: Apprentice
12/14/2011 | 8:40:25 PM
re: Cellphone Driving Ban: Good Idea?
The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and Stupidity. Texting while driving is just another example of the latter. Anyone who thinks they can drive safely and use a hands on cellphone simultaneously should not be allowed to drive regardless of local laws.
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