In August of last year, a 19-year-old pickup driver received 11 texts in as many minutes while traveling down a Missouri highway outside Gray Summit. The truck rear-ended a stopped tractor trailer at speed, which was then struck by not one, but two school buses, resulting in a massive, multi-car pileup that left 38 people injured and two dead – including the serial texter and a 15-year-old student riding in one of the buses.

The crash made national news and gained even more press after the driver's phone records were released. Today, the National Transportation Safety Board is recommending a nationwide ban on using a mobile phone while driving.

The key word there is "recommending." The NTSB doesn't have the power to enact legislation; it can only persuade lawmakers to pass a bill making it illegal for the driver to operate a mobile phone unless it's an emergency. But the NTSB is taking it a step further. The government group doesn't want drivers to use any electronic or Internet-connected device in the car, and that could include some of the newest 'Net-enabled infotainment systems embedded into vehicles. Further, the proposed ban means even using a Bluetooth headset to take calls could be illegal.

Currently, mobile phone bans are enacted by states, with nine states and the District of Columbia prohibiting their use while behind the wheel, and 35 states banning texting while driving. Those figures doesn't include the other states that ban novice or bus drivers from using a mobile phone while driving.

The NTSB's hearing was held earlier today, but the official text of the recommendation has yet to be released. We'll update this post accordingly when the NTSB offers us more than its initial findings and a tweet.

UPDATE: The text of the NTSB's recommendation is available after the jump, and as suspected, it's a sweeping suggestion for all States and the District of Columbia to not only ban mobile phone use, but any electronic device while driving.
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No call, no text, no update behind the wheel: NTSB calls for nationwide ban on PEDs while driving

Following today's Board meeting on the 2010 multi-vehicle highway accident in Gray Summit, Missouri, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) called for the first-ever nationwide ban on driver use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) while operating a motor vehicle.

The safety recommendation specifically calls for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers. The safety recommendation also urges use of the NHTSA model of high-visibility enforcement to support these bans and implementation of targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and heightened enforcement.

"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."

"No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life."

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

The Missouri accident is the most recent distraction accident the NTSB has investigated. However, the first investigation involving distraction from a wireless electronic device occurred in 2002, when a novice driver, distracted by a conversation on her cell phone, veered off the roadway in Largo, Maryland, crossed the median, flipped the car over, and killed five people.

Since then, the NTSB has seen the deadliness of distraction across all modes of transportation.

In 2004, an experienced motorcoach driver, distracted on his hands-free cell phone, failed to move to the center lane and struck the underside of an arched stone bridge on the George Washington Parkway in Alexandria, Virginia. Eleven of the 27 high school students were injured;
In the 2008 collision of a commuter train with a freight train in Chatsworth, California, the commuter train engineer, who had a history of using his cell phone for personal communications while on duty, ran a red signal while texting. That train collided head on with a freight train - killing 25 and injuring dozens;
  • In 2009, two airline pilots were out of radio communication with air traffic control for more than an hour because they were distracted by their personal laptops. They overflew their destination by more than 100 miles, only realizing their error when a flight attendant inquired about preparing for arrival.
  • In Philadelphia in 2010, a barge being towed by a tugboat ran over an amphibious "duck" boat in the Delaware River, killing two Hungarian tourists. The tugboat mate failed to maintain a proper lookout due to repeated use of a cell-phone and laptop computer;
  • In 2010, near Munfordville, Kentucky, a truck-tractor in combination with a 53-foot-long trailer, left its lane, crossed the median and collided with a 15-passenger van. The truck driver failed to maintain control of his vehicle because he was distracted by use of his cell-phone. The accident resulted in 11 fatalities
  • In the last two decades, there has been exponential growth in the use of cell-phone and personal electronic devices. Globally, there are 5.3 billion mobile phone subscribers or 77 percent of the world population. In the United States, that percentage is even higher - it exceeds 100 percent.

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, e-mailing, 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 said.

A synopsis of the NTSB report, including the probable cause, findings, and a complete list of the safety recommendations, will be available online after the meeting.

The NTSB's full report will be available on the website in several weeks.


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  • 130 Comments
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      FSLIV
      • 3 Years Ago
      What amazes me about this accident is everyone is talking about the pick-up driver but know mentions how all the vehicles behind him including the school buses were following to closely. In all actuality the pick up driver is only responsible for crashing into the big rig in front of him.
        Korben Dallas
        • 3 Years Ago
        @FSLIV
        Incorrect. The safe following distance required by the law implies that the vehicle in front stops under its own braking system (i.e. it stops gradually, not instantly). If the vehicle in front stops instantly, it will always result in pileup. Any attempts to keep safe distance for this kind of event (instant stop) would immediately paralyze all traffic in this country. The safe distance for an instant stop event is 6-7 seconds (for a passenger car). The legal requirement is 3 seconds (for a passenger car). Have you ever wondered why only 3 seconds is required by law? So, these bus drivers were keeping the proper distance. You can't blame them for that.
      Curtis
      • 3 Years Ago
      I'm a perfectly capable and aware driver, and I chose not to use a cell phone for texting while driving. I never make phone calls while operating a moving vehicle and I don't answer them either. If I need to make a call, I either do it when I arrive at my destination, or if it's urgent, I'll pull over. I always wait until I'm at a destination to answer my phone or call someone back. Drivers who use cell phones while operating a vehicle are no less dangerous than drivers who drink while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, that's a fact, it's been proven by countless studies.
        Curtis
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Curtis
        *should read "drive while under the influence" not drink:)
      MJC
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am not usually one for excessive regulation, but I would be happy to see a law like this, with very high penalties so that people might actually follow it. I sound like an old man, but people need to realize that time in the car is for DRIVING (i.e. piloting a large, powerful vehicle). It is not time for anything else. The technology is not entirely to blame either; people need to evaluate their lifestyle choices. Do you need to be spending so much time in the car or can you give up the huge house in the exurbs and live closer to work? Then you can stay later and make phone calls there. Do you REALLY need to be checking on Facebook to see where your friends are when you can't meet them at that moment anyway? Can you trust that your spouse will pick up suitable milk at the grocery store instead of texting them the exact specs?
      JOSEPH
      • 3 Years Ago
      I guess Ford will be changing the name to My Ford Do Not Touch.
      Hector Estrada
      • 3 Years Ago
      i thought it was already illegal. o well no law will stop stupid people from doing stupid things.
      ack154
      • 3 Years Ago
      As much as I would support this legislation... I see way too many people here in NY still on their phones talking and texting, I feel like it would do next to nothing to change that here or anywhere else. The people that are going to do it are not going to be disuaded by a law that they consider to be dumb. They are obviously far too important or busy to follow some silly law.
        P
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ack154
        They'd obey the law if the penalty was $1000 and 90 days license suspension for the first offense (and say $2500 and six months for a second). All it takes is "consequences" and people fall in line, as they should.
          Hectectica
          • 3 Years Ago
          @P
          I think that's a bit on the extreme side, son. I'm sure most people would pay their bills on time if the bank came to their house and broke their ribs for being late, but that's a bit harsh to me. Maybe not to you though. :\
      Jake
      • 3 Years Ago
      It seems like a lot of times when I see new cars advertised, they show Bing or something like that on the center screen. This is all just getting crazy. Update facebook when you get home!
      ojfltx
      • 3 Years Ago
      No such a thing as a "suggestion" coming from the federal government, even if the number of accidents keeps coming down.
        LUSTSTANG S-197
        • 3 Years Ago
        @ojfltx
        Exactly!! Last week we were reading about how there have been the least accident related deaths since like 1949, and now people are getting all outraged about this and crying for "change" in typical knee-jerk fashion. At this rate, we might as well just ban driving all together to avoid any possibility of something terrible from happening. I don't think texting while driving is a good idea either, and it appears it may have played a role in this accident, but reacting like some on here are will get us nowhere. Such a law certainly won't produce the results some hope it will.
      Jew
      • 3 Years Ago
      Its easy, charge an offender using a mobile phone or texting while driving a penalty and fine equivalent to a DUI and watch the girls in the Jetta and Scion Tc put their phone away. Why not include those OEM multimedia systems such as Ford Sync, GM On-Star, BMW Idrive, Mercedes COMAND, Audi MMI, Lexus Remote Touch , Chrysler MY GIG. Those systems are far more cumbersome and difficult to operate buy completely legal. While we are at it why not outlaw the sale and distribution of multimedia aftermarket head units from Pioneer, Alpine and Sony?
        SloopJohnB
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Jew
        Wrong-o. Penalties for DUI don't keep people from driving under the influence...what makes you think the morons who are addicted to texting and yapping on the phone will behave otherwise?
          montoym
          • 3 Years Ago
          @SloopJohnB
          Considering that drunk driving arrests and deaths attributed to drunk driving are on a continual decline these days, I think it's hard to argue that the penalties aren't keeping people from driving under the influence. Does it stop all of them? No, of course not, no law stops all crimes. Has it helped? The facts seem to prove so. Here's a link I found in about 5 seconds on Google that shows the total fatalities and the alcohol-related fatalities from 1982 through 2009. Note the steady decline each year. It's true that all traffic-related fatalities generally decrease as well over the same period, but note that the percentage of those fatalities attributed to alcohol decreases also. http://www.alcoholalert.com/drunk-driving-statistics.html I'd love to see your evidence to the contrary.
      rsxvue
      • 3 Years Ago
      It's illegal here in California to talk. and/or text and people still do it. Just the other day I was on the freeway and some idiot decides to cut two lanes and almost hits me ..my friend who was in the passenger said that drive was on the phone and dropped it immediately once he realized what he almost caused. I'm all for keep drivers less distracted.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
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