Federal Agency advises U.S. to Hang up and Drive

Friday, December 16, 2011


On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for a complete ban on cellphone use by drivers – no texting, no web surfing, no talking – not even on a hands-free device. The advisory is non-binding but states pay close attention to the NTSB. Chairman Deborah Hersman talks to Brooke about the NTSB's decision.


Comments [15]

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Feb. 10 2012 12:19 AM
Stephen from Arlington, VA

Only a few months ago, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood justifiably banned texting and using a cellphone while a commercial driver is operating a truck, bus or other commercial vehicle.

I know firsthand about driving distrations from using a cellphone, even hands-free. As a pedestrian, I see more drivers with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a phone. These drivers are obviously distracted from seeing a pedestrian in front of them because they are focused on their phone conversation.

Where are all the drivers who wanted everyone else to see their Bluetooth earpiece? Another style trend rolled back, I guess, to a dangerous maneuver.

Jan. 30 2012 06:37 PM
California Ford dealers from http://www.ronduprattford.com/index.htm

I totally agree with the Federal Agency that using cell phones or any kind of electronic devices while driving is dangerous. I really appreciate that there will be a law against the use of electronic device while driving. However, the use of electronic device has become a habit that people just do not realize that it is dangerous. I hope this habit will change in future especially among the teen drivers...

Jan. 04 2012 02:45 AM

I feel if the NSTB is going to cite talking on the phone as a danger, Then I think they should consider Banning Fast Food Drive Thrus. There's nobody worried about someone driving with their knee as they eat a cheeseburger? put on lipstick in the rear view mirror? Search their purse for a lighter to light their cigarette? Search the radio presets when a song you don't like comes on? Can I be cited for paying more attention to On The Media as thought provoking as it is, instead of paying attention to the road ahead?

I could get behind no more Texting or talking on cell phone, BUT I think Hands Free options should be allowed). Talking on the phone seems no more dangerous than taking to other passengers in your car, trying to tend to a child in the back seat.

Maybe a law against anyone 25 years or younger from ANY Cellphone use would be a good start. Cell phone cannot be "ON" or within the drivers reach not unlike an open container of alcohol.

Dec. 26 2011 06:47 PM

I realized how lazy the interview with NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman was and how bad of a distracted driving law would be. Ms. Hersman brought up no stats to support her argument in showing this is a clear danger. If this was a plane falling out of the sky she would had to start running numbers, but where are the numbers to support her claims? Well?

Instead she resorted to an emotional argument. And for anyone who took a debating class, an emotional argument is never a strong one. I support texting and handheld talking laws, but a complete ban?! I don't know.

The complete ban of cellphones in a car would seen okay on the surface, but how many times have we used our celly to find a place that we want to go? (AT 300 METERS TURN RIGHT AND PROCEED TO THE END OF THE BLOCK). Are you paying attention to the road or the voice guiding you there?

What about the radio, CD or MP3 player? People singing at the stoplight will soon be a thing of the past. Makes listening to NPR a feat if those "driveway moments" were against the law....

You be be just as distracted from having other people in the car as having a cellphone. After all, what is a cellphone except a person on the other end of the connection? What if they are sitting in the seat next to you, talking about something, anything....

Kids...I hate driving with them. They don't seem to care if you're driving.

I bring these up because lawmakers will write so vague that if passed it would soon die from 1000 legal filings. And once such a law dies people will be reluctant to try again. Better to outlaw single distractions one by one, least we up ripping the radios out of our cars.

FYI, I drive only on the weekends and my days off. I don't talk on my celly while I drive and I hate to txt regardless. I can live with this ban, but I think others can't or won't.

Dec. 23 2011 01:58 AM

I certainly do not support texting-while-driving, but the chain-reaction traffic accident cited as an example by NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman was a bad one to use and does not support her argument.

On August 5, 2010 a 19-year-old driver of a GMC pickup truck, apparently distracted while texting, drove into the back of a tractor truck that had either slowed down or stopped due to road construction just outside of Gray Summit, Missouri.

The GMC pickup was then struck from behind by a school bus whose driver was NOT texting. The school bus was then struck from behind by a second school bus whose driver was also NOT texting.

It appears that the 19-year-old driver of the GMC pickup was not killed when he rear-ended the tractor truck, possibly while texting-when-driving. He was killed when his pickup was rear-ended, pushed into and onto the back of the tractor truck, and then run over by the school bus whose driver who was NOT texting.

In addition to the 19-year-old driver of the GMC pickup being killed, a student on one of the school buses was killed, the driver of the tractor truck was injured and more than 30 people on the two buses were injured.

Even if the 19-year-old driver of the GMC pickup had not been texting and had not struck the tractor truck in front of him, if he had stopped or slowed down behind the tractor truck it appears that his pickup would have still been struck from behind by the negligently-driven school bus and he still would probably have been killed by it, not by texting-while-driving.

Furthermore, the first school bus would still have been struck from behind by the second (also negligently-driven) school bus which was following the first bus too closely to stop without hitting it.

The student on the bus would have still probably been killed and the 30-some people on the buses would still probably have been injured because of the 2 negligent school bus drivers.

In short, the example cited does not support the case against texting-while-driving. If anything it is an example of negligent and incompetent school bus drivers killing their school children passengers and other motorists.

You can read more about the accident at the NTSB website at: or you can google it.

It is really disappointing that no one at OTM bothered to do any research into the accident and that Brooke uncritically accepted Deborah Hersman's strained and misleading example without questioning it.

Furthermore, Deborah Hersman does the NTSB and herself no favors by citing such a poor example. It weakens her argument and makes her appear foolish and incompetent at best and untrustworthy at worst.

Certainly there must be better examples of traffic accidents caused by texting-while-driving where it actually was the main cause of the accident, instead of a comparably minor contributing factor, or worse, an irrelevant distraction from the main cause of the traffic accident.

Dec. 20 2011 02:44 AM
Chris Gray from New Haven, CT

It is difficult to find words to express how strongly I support Hersman and NTSB in this effort!

I cringe at the memory of how many dropped lit cigarettes I have searched for in the few years I have ever spent behind the wheel. I am only proud that I never smoked while driving my school bus, though to not call that distracted.driving would be to forget the unwrapped Twinkie (not a commercial endorsement) that hit my windshield nor my remedy, to eat it taking all the fun out of the thrower's wasting it.

My real point is that it is not the innumerable distractions, it is the driving! Look at any urban t.v. traffic report; our roads are a mess.

Linoln gave us mass transit & commercial transportation on trains. Eisenhower gave us a modern highway system, again mixing the two. The least we should do is to separate them if not eliminate private cars altogether.

Of course, we've already seen a deadly commuter train crash where an operator was texting. We're "unsafe at any speed", to which my experience with riding my wheelchair with disracted Yalie's walking into me while talking on a.cell phone attests.

Dec. 19 2011 06:15 AM
Duane from California

Thank you for covering this story. I can speak from experience about the cost of 'distracted driving.' I'm fortunate to be alive today, recuperating from a spinal cord injury and reconstructive surgery.

Earlier this year, a young man plowed into our stopped car. As he barreled toward us, I could see in our rearview mirror that he was staring down at his lap. He apparently never looked-up before impact, as there were absolutely no skid marks to indicate braking.

The police took a perfunctory report, but were more focused on clearing traffic for shoppers than investigating the cause of the collision. The police concluded the accident was a result of distracted driving and noted the driver violated vehicle codes, but inexplicably elected not to issue a citation. They estimated the driver rammed our car at approx. 35 mph, totaling our vehicle.

While my life and career have been side-tracked by over six months of pain, disability and medical interventions, I could have just as easily ended up in a morgue as another NTSB "statistic."

I'm counting my blessings, but feel both anger and sadness for those who haven't been as fortunate - who've lost loved ones because someone judged a 140 character message was more important than the sanctity of human life.

I am pleased that the NTSB is finally speaking out, but they're years' late in taking steps to regulate this conduct. Here's hoping they make-up for lost time.

Dec. 19 2011 03:59 AM

I'm appalled that anybody with a shred of comment sense could think it safe to talk on a cellphone, let alone text, while driving. At 70 mph, a car travels about 1/4 mile in 15 seconds - about as long as it takes to tap/read a text message.

Yes, people still drive drunk. But people also still steal & murder. Arguing that one shouldn't have a law because it won't work or can't be enforced is reasonable sometimes, but not in this case.

People no longer smoke in restaurants. Seat belt usage is way up (as a casual commuter, I found it much easier psychologically to belt up after it became law).

And, quite frankly, I have a bit more sympathy for the drunk driver than the texting driver. Drinking, after all, impairs one's judgement so drunk drivers have the excuse of probably believing they are in control.

People holding business conversations or yelling at somebody or typing a message are, presumably, sober and should know they can't watch the road and look down at a keyboard at the same time.

It's too bad we don't have the resources to force every driver to go through one of those test driving courses set up to show how quickly something can go wrong when one is distracted.

Note: I'm old enough to remember when one couldn't place a call or text while driving. Life still went on. And I'd be willing to bet that at least 95% of the calls or text messages could be delayed until the drive ends without affecting anybody's life in any way.

Dec. 18 2011 05:30 PM
Sara Giannoni from Burlington VT

One thing the government has done effectively is educate us on unhealthy driving habits, drinking, wearing a seat-belt. The important distinction is if the activity puts others at risk or only ourselves, i.e. drinking vs. wearing a seat-belt. Extensive education is important in either case, but government regulation should be created and enforced when the lives other others are in danger as in this case.

Dec. 18 2011 10:22 AM
Meg Greer from Wellesley, MA

Whenever I see someone doing something stupid on the road, I can look at them and see that they are talking on the phone.
I have examined my own driving while talking on my Bluetooth enabled phone. More than once, I have "missed my exit", or "forgotten where I was going". My daughter had her first fender bender at age 27, and blamed it on the slippery snow fall, but she was also talking on the phone. Really?
Inwardly, when I am on the Bluetooth, my eyes are on the phone call, not on the road. The road is a foggy secondary place that my mind is trying to stay connected to.
Cell phone use behind the wheel should be banned, and I am going to stop doing it my self right now.

Dec. 17 2011 01:17 PM

This is upsetting to me because I don't use my phone much in the car, and when I do I am quite mindful of being careful. Talking hands-free is *as* dangerous as talking to a passenger, and are we going to ban that, too? How about the unenforcability of a ban on hands-free phone use in cars with mic/speaker systems built in? Or how a cop will see a little bluetooth earpiece in a drivers ear? Then how can you tell he was talking on the phone?

I completely agree distracting use of ANYTHING while driving is dangerous and should be discouraged and possibly banned. This is not like drunk driving. You can't turn off 'drunk' and put it in your pocket.

I find it amazing that you didn't include facts and context in this and the next story about the dimensions of the problem. And you didn't provide any countering voices *at all*. Then later in this program you go on about 'fact checking' being a biased situation. Well, look at yourself here.

I like the program. But this is some poor work here.

Dec. 17 2011 01:17 PM

This is a great idea... which would be totally ignored and impossible to enforce. After all, it is illegal to drive while under the influence and that hasn't stopped anybody driving drunk, even those who have been caught so many times that their licenses have been suspended.

Educational campaigns would be similarly ineffective.

The only way to stop cellphone use while driving is to start making cars that jam the signal anytime the car is running. Given the way things go in this country, I'd expect to see that happen in around 2079.

Dec. 17 2011 11:25 AM

I totally believe that talking/texting while driving is potentially deadly. I used to dictate blog posts behind the wheel.

This would be a law I'd support.

Dec. 16 2011 07:57 PM

this really needs to be reinforced....

Dec. 16 2011 07:28 PM

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