Calls for US nationwide ban of mobile device use while driving

14 Dec 2011

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has called for the first-ever nationwide ban on the use of personal devices, like smartphones, while driving a vehicle.

The call was made following today’s board meeting on the 2010 multi-vehicle highway accident in Gray Summit, Missouri.

On 5 August 2010, on a section of Interstate 44 in Gray Summit, a pick-up truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed due to an active construction zone. The pick-up 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 pick-up driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident. The last text was received moments before the pick-up struck the truck-tractor.

The safety recommendation specifically calls for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the non-emergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers.

3,000 people lost their lives last year in the US because of distracted drivers

“According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents”, said chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman.

“It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving,” Hersman said.

In the last two decades, there has been exponential growth in the use of mobile phone and personal electronic devices. Globally, there are 5.3bn mobile phone subscribers or 77pc of the world population. In the United States, that percentage is even higher – it exceeds 100pc.

Further, a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study of commercial drivers found that a safety-critical event is 163 times more likely if a driver is texting, emailing, or accessing the internet.

“The data is clear; the time to act is now. How many more lives will be lost before we, as a society, change our attitudes about the deadliness of distractions?” Hersman asked.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years