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NTSB Recommends Cell Phone Ban For Drivers 938

ducomputergeek writes "According to this AP report, the National Transportation Safety Board says 'States should ban all driver use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices, except in emergencies.' 'The recommendation, unanimously agreed to by the five-member board, applies to both hands-free and hand-held phones and significantly exceeds any existing state laws restricting texting and cellphone use behind the wheel.' So what about all the cars today that come with built-in computers, navigation, internet capabilities, and cell phones?"
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NTSB Recommends Cell Phone Ban For Drivers

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  • Docked Phones? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sanosuke001 ( 640243 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:34PM (#38359154)
    What about my docked phone that is playing music? Can I even have it running? Is pressing "next" equal to hitting your in-car stereo's next button?

    I completely agree with not allowing non-hands-free talking and especially with texting, but all electronic usage is a bit vague...
  • Needed to be done. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tufriast ( 824996 ) * on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:36PM (#38359198)
    I hate to break it to people, techies included, but talking on your phone and driving kills people. Its a pretty well known fact and insurance companies are even charging higher premiums to people who have had a cell phone related accident (more than a normal rate increase). Ultimately this is the states' call, but if it was your kid, significant other, or friend who got killed by someone texting/talking on their phone would you let it go?
    • Citation please (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Scareduck ( 177470 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:41PM (#38359310) Homepage Journal

      If it's so damned dangerous, why do the cops get a permanent exception?

      Spare me the "talking on your phone and driving kills people" sophistry. So does anything else that distracts from driving. Shall we next eliminate cupholders in cars because drinking and driving "kills people", too?

      • Because (Score:5, Insightful)

        by AdamJS ( 2466928 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:46PM (#38359436)

        Cops are above the law, of course.

      • Re:Citation please (Score:5, Insightful)

        by superdave80 ( 1226592 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:48PM (#38359504)

        Because cops are automatically better than us.

        That's why they can constantly record you out in public, but the second you try recording them it, it's 'wiretapping' or 'interfering with police business'.

        That's why they can carry loaded guns, but the average citizen just can't be trusted to do the same.

        They can speed as much as they damn well please, because they are better drivers than you.

      • If it's so damned dangerous, why do the cops get a permanent exception?

        Same reason they get an exception on driving like an asshole in general: because they can.

        Percentage-wise, I'd say I see way more police offers perform unexpected/dangerous maneuvers and nearly cause wrecks than all other drivers on the road. Probably by quite a bit. I always watch them extra carefully because god only knows what stupid shit they might pull, and I doubt they're taking the blame if they do something dumb and our vehicle

      • Re:Citation please (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ThinkingGuy ( 551764 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:18PM (#38360146) Homepage
        I actually asked a police officer about this subject once. Specifically, I asked if they received any special training on how to drive and talk on the radio/phone at the same time. His response was, in effect: No, there's no special training, but witnessing on a daily basis the deaths, injuries, and carnage caused by careless driving serves as a strong motivation to exercise caution while driving.
      • Re:Citation please (Score:5, Interesting)

        by onkelonkel ( 560274 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:46PM (#38360670)
        Never mind cell phones in cop cars, what about the mobile terminals? Every cop car around here has a midsize laptop mounted on the seat next top the driver. We banned cell phones in cars last year and to this day I have not heard exactly why I can't talk without a hands free phone, but Officer Bob can drive and type on laptop at the same time.
    • I hate to break it to people, techies included, but talking on your phone and driving kills people.

      No it doesn't. It can, but that's an entirely different statement.

      Driving while sick can also. Hell, driving while perfectly healthy can!

      Ultimately this is the states' call, but if it was your kid, significant other, or friend who got killed by someone texting/talking on their phone would you let it go?

      What does that even mean, "let it go"? Your scenario hasn't provided sufficient context. Did they swerve off the road into a crowd of children? Did they run a red light because they were texting? Or was my "kid, significant other, or friend" jaywalking? Were they texting or using hands-free speakerphone?

      Here's another example for you. A few times a year, you hear about som

  • by Cutriss ( 262920 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:38PM (#38359254) Homepage
    I recognize that someone in Mr. LaHood's position needs to strongly advocate for safety, but his position borders on authoritarian. I listened to an interview with him on Fresh Air (I think) where he basically shouted down anyone who offered a counterpoint to his position and portrayed them all as idiots. The best part was when the final caller claimed to actually be driving while calling and it set him off to the point I thought he was going to ask if they could trace the call.

    Just get us self-driving cars already so that this and a number of related problems go away.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:49PM (#38359512)

      By the way, I've heard two interviews on NPR featuring Mr. LaHood. In both cases, he was aggressive, dismissive, and generally petulant whenever his position was questioned. He came to the show strictly for the purpose of delivering one message: "Two hands on the wheel, eyes on the road. Always. No exceptions"

  • by mwehle ( 2491950 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:40PM (#38359282) Homepage
    From the cited article:

    Investigators also found significant problems with the brakes of both school buses involved in the accident. A third school bus sent to a hospital after the accident to pick up students crashed in the hospital parking lot when that bus' brakes failed.

    Lesson would seem to be not to text while driving, and definitely don't text while driving in front of multiple school buses with bad brakes.

  • by SirBitBucket ( 1292924 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:40PM (#38359290)
    According to CNN here: [] the proposal would NOT ban the use of hand-free devices, or passenger cell phone usage.
    • by schwit1 ( 797399 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:12PM (#38360012)

      The NTSB website does not say anything about a hands-free exception.

      To the 50 states and the District of Columbia:

              (1) Ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers; (2) use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration model of high visibility enforcement to support these bans; and (3) implement targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and enforcement, and to warn them of the dangers associated with the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices while driving. (H-11-XX)

  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:41PM (#38359298) Journal can still grope around under the seat for CDs in traffic but you can't use a voice dialer / hands free setup to tell wife you're stuck in traffic. Your tax dollars at work.

  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:42PM (#38359326) Homepage Journal

    Drivers should be only punished if there driving is dangerous. Drivers exhibiting signs of impaired driving (like slow reaction), excessively long cushions to the next car, speed lower than traffic.

    The amount of preventive punishment: seat belts, speed limits, etc is mind boggling. All in the name of safety.

    Punish drivers for the crime, actual accident which was there fault, actual impediment to the traffic, not for the achieving preconditions of what will actually happen. As long as I am concerned the driver could be sleeping on the back seat, if his robotic car manages to drive the car meanwhile.

    This is all of course excludes DUI. Those need to be moved to the buses for life, period.

    • by mungtor ( 306258 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:04PM (#38359812)

      This is all of course excludes DUI. Those need to be moved to the buses for life, period.

      Why should it exclude DUI? Unless you're driving dangerously, it's just as safe as talking on the phone. Probably more so, since if you're a little drunk you're concentrating on driving and looking out for cops, rather than fucking around with your phone and being generally oblivious to your surroundings.

    • Except that studies show that driving while using one's cell phone are as dangerous as DUI: []

    • Drivers should be only punished if there driving is dangerous. Drivers exhibiting signs of impaired driving (like slow reaction), excessively long cushions to the next car, speed lower than traffic.

      The amount of preventive punishment: seat belts, speed limits, etc is mind boggling. All in the name of safety.

      Punish drivers for the crime, actual accident which was there fault, actual impediment to the traffic, not for the achieving preconditions of what will actually happen. As long as I am concerned the driver could be sleeping on the back seat, if his robotic car manages to drive the car meanwhile.

      This is all of course excludes DUI. Those need to be moved to the buses for life, period.

      Drivers should be only punished if there driving is dangerous.

      The amount of preventive punishment: seat belts, speed limits, etc is mind boggling. All in the name of safety.

      This isn't about pre-crime or expanding the 'nanny state', it's about making statistically valid expansions to the rules on reckless endangerment. The entire point of the article is that cell phone or laptop use while driving is dangerous. You don't wait for someone with a lethal weapon to actually kill someone before you bother to punish them for doing stupid shit with it. By your logic a man with an open carry permit can just stroll down the street with their Glock, safety off and finger in the trigger gu

  • by zifn4b ( 1040588 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:42PM (#38359332)

    How about we ban other dangerous activities while driving like:

    - Changing radio stations
    - Putting on makeup
    - Reading books or newspapers
    - Scolding children in the back seat
    - Thumbing through CD wallets looking for CD's
    - Eating

    Seriously, people have been doing things in their cars that can and have caused accidents, some of them even more utterly ridiculous than using cell phones or texting. Why is this getting so much attention?

    • This is it exactly.
      You can't legitimately talk about banning cell phones without proposing we ban the millions of fast food drive-thru windows. Saying you can eat a Big Mac but you can't make a hands-free call is idiotic.

  • by PeanutButterBreath ( 1224570 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:43PM (#38359340)

    There are two types of people who use phones and other gadgets while driving: Those who realize that their driving ability is impaired, and those who don't realize that their driving ability is impaired.

    BTW, I don't remember the last time I saw a cop driving a car without either talking on the phone or using a laptop mounted on the passenger seat.

  • by madhatter256 ( 443326 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:43PM (#38359360)

    Seriously, the technology is here to allow for fully autonomous driving. The government just needs to come up with the funding to install all of the sensors and implement regulations that require all manufacturers to include these in ALL vehicles.

    Driving is a privelege, not a right. If we want our roads to be truly safe then we should have computers do the driving for us. Again, the technology is here (straight from wikipedia):

    Autonomous cars are not in widespread use, but their introduction could produce several direct advantages:

    Fewer crashes, due to the autonomous system's increased reliability compared to human drivers[1]
    Increased roadway capacity due to reduced need of safety gaps[2] and the ability to better manage traffic flow.[1]
    Relief of vehicle occupants from driving and navigation chores.[1]
    Removal of constraints on occupant's state - it would not matter if the occupants were too young, too old or if their frame of mind were not suitable to drive a traditional car. Furthermore, disabilities would no longer matter.[3]
    Elimination of redundant passengers - humans are not required to take the car anywhere, as the robotic car can drive empty to wherever it is required.[3]
    Alleviation of parking scarcity as cars could drop off passengers, park far away where space is not scarce, and return as needed to pick up passengers.
    Indirect advantages are anticipated as well. Adoption of robotic cars could reduce the number of vehicles worldwide,[4][5] reduce the amount of space required for vehicle parking,[6] and reduce the need for traffic police and vehicle insurance.

    This will not only "eliminate" accidents, but also decrease emmissions, and save money....

  • Public Transit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TrumpetPower! ( 190615 ) <> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:44PM (#38359372) Homepage

    I'm amazed that people are still so passionate about driving themselves to work and so vehemently opposed to public transit. Don't all y'all realize that you could spend your commute time texting and Tweeting and talking and what-not with reckless abandon if you let a professional handle the driving for you?

    On top of it, a transit system done right is faster, far cheaper, and much more efficient than one in which single-occupancy multi-passenger vehicles are the norm. Instead of sitting in stop-and-go traffic on the freeway for an hour, you could be in a train doing 100 mph down the median of that same freeway...if only such a train existed.

    Don't get me worng. Cars are awesome, and a vital part of any modern transportation system. But the balance of the American transportation system is skewed so far in favor of cars that it's become the most expensive, slowest, most dangerous, most inconvenient, most inefficient transportation system you could design.



    • Re:Public Transit (Score:5, Insightful)

      by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:48PM (#38359494)

      I'm amazed that people are still so passionate about driving themselves to work and so vehemently opposed to public transit.

      That's because public transit sucks.

      If I take the bus to work I get to stand outside at -40 waiting for it, then it takes half an hour to get to the depot, then I stand in the cold for a few minutes waiting to change to another bus, then it takes an other half hour to get to work. Then I get to do the same on the way back, except for the days when it's really cold and snowy and the bus is half an hour late so I have to wait at the bus stop and hope that it's going to turn up before I get frostbite because if I go inside to warm up then I can be sure that the bus will arrive right then.

      Alternatively I can drive and it takes fifteen minutes.

      • That's not even the bad part of public transport.

        What private vehicles offer that public transport will never have, is that it offers a private mobile storage space. Want to drop off a computer at a friend's house after work? No problem. Want to pick up 150lbs. of groceries (or maybe a ton of construction materials) on the way home? No problem.

        That said I would be happy to have a self-driving car.

      • Re:Public Transit (Score:4, Informative)

        by Necron69 ( 35644 ) <> on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:35PM (#38360476)

        Yep, it sucks. My recommended work commute by Denver's Regional Transportation District takes three transfers, 2.5 hours, and is followed by "walk the remaining 3 miles" (yes, really). I can drive the same route in 40 minutes most days, so I do.

        I'd love to be able to sit back and let someone else drive for me, but not at that cost.


  • by Ichijo ( 607641 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:52PM (#38359562) Journal
    Every state in the USA has a "basic speed law" which says you should not drive faster than what's safe under the current conditions, no matter what the posted speed limit says. For example, if you can't devote 100% of your attention to the road, then you need to drive more slowly. Therefore, rather than banning cell phones, all we have to do is enforce existing laws against speeding, and possibly raise the penalties. Why do drunk drivers automatically get their driving privileges back after one to two years? It just doesn't make sense to reward poor judgment.
  • CB Radios (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Cogneato ( 600584 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @03:59PM (#38359704) Homepage

    When I was a kid in the 70s, nearly everyone I knew had a CB radio in their cars and trucks (I grew up in a family of truckers in the country). So how are hands-free phones different than CB radios? Actually, CBs aren't even hands free. Is there something different behind the mentality of using a CB radio vs a cellphone? Or was using a CB always dangerous and just not used by as many people? I can't remember any conversations ever about the possible dangers of using a CB radio.

    Suppose I put my phone on speaker and then pugged in a mic that had a curly wire and button I pressed to talk, making it basically function like a CB radio. Would the danger level of using it decrease (when compared to using it entirely hands free)?

  • by hawguy ( 1600213 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:01PM (#38359746)

    If the NTSB is finally recognizing that driving while distracted is a problem, will they ban police from using phones and computers while driving?

    Or are police somehow immune to driving while distracted dangers?

  • by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:41PM (#38360586) Homepage Journal

    Let's just ban stupid people from getting driver's licenses. No, seriously, hear me out on this:

    In the 4-5 year span that I was driving as a stupid, arrogant, over confident teenager (who, for the record, did not possess a cell phone), I totaled a car pretty much every six months; once, I wrecked a cherry Buick I had bought a week prior because I was looking at the clock.

    Conversely, I have had and used a cell phone for the past 10 years in my auto without incident (knock on wood), in both hands on and hands free configurations. Maybe it's because I've been behind the wheel of some sort of engine-driven vehicle since age 6; maybe it's because I focus more on driving than the conversation at hand (which the party on the other end typically dislikes, but hey, fuck 'em). Regardless, the fact remains that I had an order of magnatude more incidents when I was young and stupid than any time afterwards, and cell phones were not a factor in any of said incidents.

    Thus, taking into account the aforementioned subjective observational data, I would contend that the issue is more one of operator competence than the equipment itself... which takes us back to my original point: Ban idiots from the road, and many of the problems associated will solve themselves.

  • by King_TJ ( 85913 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @04:50PM (#38360746) Journal

    So this group of 5 people gets to decide what's "safe" for ALL drivers in America when it comes to using their phones?

    One would hope their "recommendation" doesn't wind up holding any real legal weight, but given our congressmen and senators who LOVE to police every activity imaginable (even demanding Apple remove various programs from their App Store, like the "make your own fake drivers' license on the iPhone screen" one) -- I don't think this will end too well.

    First off, WHY must they constantly lump texting and hands-free use of a cellphone together? It's blatantly obvious to me that texting is NOT a safe activity while operating a motor vehicle. Solutions are out that allow reading and dictating replies to SMS messages verbally, and I think that's workable. But no, you probably can NOT sit there and read a little phone screen AND key in sentences using a virtual keyboard or chicklet-sized slide-out one on the phone AND drive at the same time safely.

    I've never had any issues answering an incoming call on my cell by tapping a big button that appears on my car stereo's display though, and talking while driving. Actually, I think live conversations with a passenger are likely to be more distracting or dangerous, since it's human nature that we expect some sort of occasional eye contact while communicating. Watch how often a driver will turn his/her head to briefly look at the passenger when he/she speaks..... For that matter, what about kids in the back seat? Nobody's seriously ready to recommend parents not take their kids anywhere in motor vehicles, right? Yet with the crying and screaming fits they're known to throw randomly, as well as possibly even throwing toys or other objects while in the car -- clearly they're more dangerous than a hands-free phone call!

  • As a motorcyclist... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OverkillTASF ( 670675 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @05:38PM (#38361780)
    Two of the superficial things that I REALLY look out for... Handicap license plates and the old people that generally accompany them... and cell phones, whether texting or at the ear. I can't explain why... but my passenger notices it too... If someone is weaving back and forth in their lane, tail-gating, changing lanes without a turn signal, stopping rapidly, turning suddenly, driving too slowly, generally driving inappropriately for the conditions, or generally not giving other drivers notice of their upcoming actions... a cell phone being used is a REALLY good bet. On a bike, all of your inputs have to be dedicated to not getting squished, so you notice these things a lot more when your life really depends on it. In my truck, I personally turn into a moron when I pick up the phone to say "Can't talk, driving." Even holding the phone while it's on speaker is a distraction. I can't say why. Using bluetooth in the truck CAN be distracting depending on the discussion, but I don't notice it so much. Having a conversation on my motorcycle helmet's bluetooth is definitely not something I do around town / on the twisties. This is enough evidence to tell me that I personally am not able to drive/ride as well when I'm on a phone, or even talking on Bluetooth. And I've seen enough to convince myself that people physically holding phones turn into total morons when driving. Or perhaps that most moron drivers just like to talk on the phone. Sure, some people think their cell phones don't impact their driving, but 95% of drivers think they're above-average drivers too. Hang up and drive. Or get a blue-tooth headset. Or a blue-tooth stereo. Whatever. That might still leave you 25% distracted, but it's way better than the simplified version of driving that cell phone users end up when holding it up to their face. "Follow car in front... follow car in front... follow car in front..."
  • by FlynnMP3 ( 33498 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @05:47PM (#38361986)

    I agree with the spirit of the recommendation, but not the way it is suggested.

    FACT: People are distracted to varying degrees while performing normal driving.

    There are countless reasons why the driver of a car can be distracted in the normal operation of a vehicle: serious conversation with a passenger, yelling at the unruly spawn in the backseat, fishing around in the glove compartment, windshield is dirty and driving during dusk when the sun is shining directly in your eyes, etc etc.

    FACT: Personal electronics are an additional distraction while driving.

    If I'm using my phone GPS capability while actively navigating an unfamiliar area downtown in a huge city, any point I take my eyes off the road is an opportunity to be in an accident. Best case scenario: The GPS device is completely hands off. Fortunately, my upgraded smartphone has this. Answering a phone is very distracting. You have to find it or fish it out of your pants pocket, look at the device to unlock it, and press the button to answer it. Then talking on the phone is distracting. Some conversations more than others of course. It would be great if a large percentage of people could judge for themselves when they exceed the threshold of not paying attention to the road, but unfortunately, most people are incapable of this judgement call.

    Personally, I never answer the phone while driving. If it is important, they'll leave a message and I'll call back later. That's not to suggest everybody should be that way, but I do think a hands off system for answering a call in a car would be best. Instead of a luxury item in a car, I think every car made should have a hands off system the easily integrates with the car sound system. A technical nightmare right now, but with a few mandates to the right companies, it could be a reality in as little as 5 years.

    What I literally hate seeing is people who talk on the phone nearly non stop while driving the car. Nearly every one of these people are accidents waiting to happen. I am sorry, but you cannot concentrate on driving while always talking on a phone. If you have to make a phone call or answer it, make it short and sweet. You'll live longer and you can talk longer when you are not driving. Driving is not an afterthought - no matter how long you have been doing it. It requires varying degrees of concentration. Most of the time driving is boring, but you need the mental capacity to respond quickly to bad conditions.

    In a my perfect world, talking on the phone while driving would be punishable the same way as driving while under the influence. Ergo, the cop sees you talking on the phone, they get an opportunity to pull you over / ticket you and you get to explain your case to the judge or pay the fine. Repeated infractions get stiffer and stiffer fines until at some point you get your license taken away from you.

    For those that absolutely have to talk while driving, get a hands off system for your vehicle.

  • by holophrastic ( 221104 ) on Tuesday December 13, 2011 @07:40PM (#38363664)

    I did. I fought it. I did so alone. And I lost. I still think it's better to hold the phone, than to be hands-free, and I can clearly explain why. But that's not the point here. Also not the point here is that Mario Andretti can drive just fine while talking on the radio -- remember that we already train people to drive; I don't know why we don't train people to drive while talking: it's a skill like any other.

    The point here should be that if you can't drive while talking on a dry road with perfect lighting, you shouldn't be driving in the rain at all, let a alone a blizzard with ice on the road. If you were banning talking while driving in a blizzard, I'd be fine with that. If you were saying that I can't drive without corrective lenses, adn he can't drive while talking, I'd be fine with that too. Each is skill-based. Easily taught and tested.

    But that won't be the point here either.

    The point here is that I can paint your future. In 5 years, an automated car won't be just a prototype any more. In 10 years, it'll be a standard option on many high-end cars. And it 20 years, it'll be a standard option on most cars. At some point, someone's going to calculate a statistic that the self-driving car is safer than the human-driven car. And it won't matter that the stat includes teenage drivers, and criminals, and human emergencies. And it won't matter whether or not the stat is valid at all, or reliable across geographical, weather, or cultural divides. One day, someone will lobby to require all driving to be automatic. And one day, one of those someones will win.

    And it doesn't matter how many lives are saved. Because that too isn't the point. Not driving at all would save lives too. So would being encased in a bubble, or only driving huge trucks.

    The only point here is that when that day comes, you'll have said that a safety risk is more important than a recreational freedom. Many people enjoy driving. Many people enjoy driving to work. Many people enjoy controlling the machine, repairing the machine, cleaning the machine, and playing with the machine.

    So you'll live in a city where something enjoyable is prohibited. And the irony will be that police cars will be the very last to be automated. So you'll have a human police officer trained to drive to catch a human driver to arrest them for driving. It'll be funny.

    And the best part is that you will not have removed all car collisions. Because the automated driving will still not be able to deal with all of the black ice. So you'll have removed the ability for humans to drive, and only saved a few lives. And you'll never have the stats to prove it. But you'll still have air bags, seat belts, road signs, crumple zones, automatic driving, and ejection seats.

    That's the point. And that's the problem.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.