NTSB Proposes Complete Ban on Cell Phones and Portable Electronic Devices While Driving


June 30, 2012

We have frequently addressed the issue of driver distraction and the significant impact of the use of cell phones and portable electronic devices in causing motor vehicle accidents. While federal traffic safety experts have been aware of the seriousness of the danger for years, no federal panel or agency has previously recommended that states ban all use of cell phones or portable electronic devices while driving. Many states, including Georgia, have taken steps to restrict the use of cell phones for text messaging and talking while driving, but no state has banned all use of the devices by drivers. This soon may change in the wake of new recommendations by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The panel recently concluded its investigation of a chain reaction fatal accident in Missouri last year, which was caused by a texting driver. The NTSB is now proposing a comprehensive ban on all use of cell phone or portable electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle.

Many states have taken steps to reduce the role of cell phones on accident rates, but these measures have not had the anticipated impact on accident rates. Currently, there are a total of nine states that ban hand-held calling on cell phones and 35 states that have some form of prohibition on text messaging while driving. However, accident rates have not been significantly affected by these measures, which may be linked to problems with enforcement. There are so many permissible uses of cell phones that bans on texting or handheld calling are virtually unenforceable until an accident occurs.

There are other explanations for the lack of effectiveness of current anti-cell phone laws. Because no bans have eliminated the use of cell phones for hands-free calling, the mental distraction associated with talking on a cell phone has not been eliminated. It appears that this mental distraction may be just as dangerous as the visual and physical distraction associated with texting or talking on a cell phone. This theory is supported by the fact that conversations with passengers are one of the most prominent forms of driver distraction that cause serious car accidents. Whether talking to a passenger in a car or talking to someone on a hands-free phone, the mental distraction creates a significant car accident risk. This difficulty of multi-tasking while driving is reflected by the fact that “divided attention” standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs) are used by law enforcement to evaluate drivers for impaired driving.

The final problem that has limited the effectiveness of existing bans is that they are primarily directed at cell phone use. There are a growing number of handheld electronic devices like iPods, MP3 players, portable video players and other electronic devices that also distract drivers. The NTSB ban would include these devices as well as cell phones.

The proposals of the NTSB are not binding, but the panel has substantial influence on lawmakers and regulators. The panel is recommending that states pass complete bans on all use of cell phones and portable electronic devices while driving except for emergency use. Because there is no text or phone call that is worth someone’s life or a catastrophic injury, we welcome such a change in Georgia law. If you or someone you love has suffered serious injury or a loved one has died, our experienced Georgia distracted driving attorneys at Montlick and Associates may be able to help you obtain the financial compensation that you need to move past your injuries or loss.

Our Atlanta distracted driving accident attorneys are available to assist clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.

Category: Auto Accidents

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