NTSB proposes ban on all cell phone use by drivers

Rescue personnel work at the scene of an accident involving two school buses and a tractor-trailer Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010, on eastbound Interstate 44 near Gray Summit, Mo. The school buses were carrying high school band students to an amusement park. Officials say two people were killed and dozens were injured. Missouri School Bus Crash
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
The National Transportation Safety Board is urging that states ban all use of cell phones by drivers.

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.

NTSB: Driver texted 11 times before deadly crash

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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