The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday issued a recommendation for a nationwide ban on using any electronics while driving, including hands-free devices at an afternoon press conference at the NTSB Board Room and Conference Center.
The NTSB didn’t name specific devices, but recommended that drivers refrain from using any kind of personal electronic devices (PEDs) while driving. The recommendation comes from a culmination of 10 years of investigations involving all modes of transportation, NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said.
It’s not just about manipulating something, Hersman said, it’s also about cognitive distractions. To make her point, Hersman provided several anecdotes from NTSB investigations of accidents where electronics were determined to be a factor.
From a release issued after the conference:
On August 5, 2010, on a section of Interstate 44 in Gray Summit, Missouri, a pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed due to an active construction zone. The pickup truck, in turn, was struck from behind by a school bus. That school bus was then hit by a second school bus that had been following. As a result, two people died and 38 others were injured.
The NTSB's investigation revealed that the pickup driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident. The last text was received moments before the pickup struck the truck-tractor.
The Missouri accident is the most recent distraction accident the NTSB has investigated. However, the first investigation involving distraction from a wireless electronic device occurred in 2002, when a novice driver, distracted by a conversation on her cell phone, veered off the roadway in Largo, Maryland, crossed the median, flipped the car over, and killed five people.
“It’s not being engaged at the task at hand…when you are multitasking…you’re dividing up the attention you are able to give any one task,” Hersman said.
The NTSB is recommending “a three-pronged approach” to making electronics effective, Hersman said.
“We need strong laws, regulations, and rules that talk about what the behavior is and what is appropriate…a strong educational campaign to communicate the issues and the consequences…and a strong enforcement campaign.”
“Our recommendations aren’t always popular and we know that this recommendation isn’t going to be popular with some people, but we’re not here to win a popularity contest. We’re here to do the right thing. This is a difficult recommendation to make, but it’s the right one,” she said.
Hersman said the NTSB would like to see technologies created that would make the driver’s seat a communication free area by inhibiting or prohibiting sending or receiving of messages and phone calls while a vehicle is in motion. The NTSB has been in contact with mobile phone companies and manufacturers asking them to consider developing technologies to make this possible.
NTSB wouldn’t speculate on how law enforcement would enforce such a ban, and says the recommendations are to states only, but the NTSB would welcome federal legislation.
photo by mrJasonWeaver/flickr