In a report released Tuesday, the board says the ban would include hands-free cell phone calling as well as hand dialing and texting except in emergencies. That would outlaw even the kind of voice-command calling and texting enabled by built-in systems such as Ford's SYNC.
The safety board does not have the power to implement such changes. But its recommendation goes well beyond anything in current state laws. A majority of states do ban all texting while driving.
The NTSB came to its proposal after the investigation of a deadly highway pileup in Missouri last year. The 19-year-old driver whose pickup set off the chain reaction sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes just before the crash, the board says. That driver and a student in a school bus were both killed.
In another report last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that about 5 percent of drivers are talking on cell phones at any given time. It estimated that about 5,500 traffic deaths in 2009 were caused by cell phones or similar distractions.
NHTSA is now implementing a new data collection method to get a more accurate count of fatalities caused by cell phones and other distractions. The system is similar to a previously successful effort to collect better data on drunk driving accidents. Investigators now routinely call for the cell phone records of drivers involved in serious accidents.
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