An investigation into a car crash caused by distracted driving has led the nation’s leading governmental traffic safety advocate to urge state governments to ban all use of portable communications devices by drivers. This would include cell phones, meaning a total ban on non-emergency talking and texting while operating a vehicle. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), an independent agency of the federal government, issued this recommendation earlier this week as part of its report on a 2010 automobile accident in Missouri.
The NTSB also recommends that state and local governments follow the model of “high visibility enforcement” pioneered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), another government safety advocate. The NHTSA has run campaigns that combine vigorous enforcement of a specific traffic law with publicity campaigns in order to promote awareness of, and compliance with, such traffic laws.
The CTIA, a trade association that represents the wireless electronics communications industry, has in the past supported bans on texting behind the wheel. On the issue of banning talking on cell phones while driving, it has indicated a willingness to defer to the public and to lawmakers. The single greatest factor that would weigh against a successful ban on talking while driving is that, put simply, everyone seems to be doing it.
“Distracted driving,” which refers to driving while using some sort of electronic communications device or engaged some other activity, caused up to 3,092 deaths in traffic accidents last year, the NHTSA estimates. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia have enacted bans on sending text messages while driving, but it does not appear to have stopped, or even slowed down, the practice. Texting while driving may have increased by as much as fifty percent in the past year, and the NHTSA estimates that one percent of drivers on the road are, at any given moment, distracted by a cell phone. Younger drivers are even more likely to drive while distracted.
The NTSB issued its recommendation as part of its report on a multi-vehicle collision that killed two people and left 35 injured. It concluded that distracted driving and fatigue, while not the sole cause of the accident, played a highly significant role in causing the accident. A pickup truck driver in Gray Summit, Missouri, allegedly fatigued and distracted due to texting, collided with the back of a semi truck without a trailer the morning of August 5, 2010. A school bus rear-ended the pickup truck, causing the truck to flip over onto the semi. A second school bus following behind the first struck the lead bus, which forced the lead bus on top of the pickup truck. The pickup truck driver and a passenger at the rear of the lead bus died in the crash. A review of the pickup truck driver’s cell phone records indicated that he sent or received eleven text messages in the eleven minutes prior to the collision with the semi.
The Washington, DC automobile accident injury lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen help people injured in car accidents to recover their just compensation. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.
“Guidelines for Developing a High-Visibility Enforcement Campaign to Reduce Unsafe Driving Behaviors among Drivers of Passenger and Commercial Motor Vehicles” (PDF), National Highway Transportation Safety Administration
More Blog Posts:
Possible New FMCSA Hours-of-Service Regulations on Commercial Truck Drivers Create Controversy, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 29, 2011
NTSB Urges Ban on Cell Phones for Truck Drivers, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 23, 2011
US DOT Holds Second Annual Distracted Driving Summit in Washington DC, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 22, 2010