• Mar 28th 2012 at 10:49AM
  • 6
NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman reiterated the agency's c... NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman reiterated the agency's call for a ban on all portable electronic device use while driving on Tuesday.
Ten years from now, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board hopes she's not sitting in another symposium like the one convened Tuesday.

Deborah Hersman said it shouldn't take much longer for people to act on what experts know now – that distracted driving is causing carnage on American roads.

On Tuesday, the NTSB restated its call for a ban on drivers using all portable electronic devices, including hands-free use of mobile devices, during the forum on distracted driving in Washington D.C.

The call for a ban on both hand-held and hands-free devices is a step above the hand-held ban that U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has recommended. LaHood has said the issue with hands-free devices needs more research.

Hersman disagrees.

"It's clear that we don't need another decade of investigations and recommendations," said Hersman, noting that 5,474 people were killed in 2009 in crashes caused by distractions including cell-phone use.

Another NTSB board member, Robert Sumwalt, said that distracted driving had risen to "epidemic" levels, and cited a recent study that concluded both hand-held and hands-free mobile usage increases the chance of a crash by a factor of four.

"There is no difference between hand-helds and hands-free," he said. "That's a point that I think is huge."

The NTSB board members urged companies making the technology to take added responsibility for how their products affect driver attention and potentially contribute to accidents.

In pointed remarks, Hersman said, "if the technology producers focused more on what is safe than what sells, we'd see highway fatalities go down."

Michael Cammisa, the director of safety for the Association of Global Automakers, said that auto manufacturers and original equipment suppliers were already heeding that warning.

"Our members take a measured approach when designing a vehicle and deciding what features to include," he said. "When integrating the convenience features demanded by today's consumers, factors such as safety, usability and comprehension are all considered."

Thirty-five states already have a ban in place on text messaging while driving. Nine states ban the use of hand-held mobile devices, but no state has prohibited the use of hands-free devices.

The NTSB has no rule-making authority, but its recommendations are passed along to Congress and the White House.

Automakers are very much against such a severe curtailment of electronic devices like iPhones and Blackberries. Virtually all automakers have developed, or are developing, systems meant to enable drivers to do the following hands-free and by voice command: make phone calls, access music libraries, have texts and even Facebook updates and Twitter tweets read aloud in the car.

Automakers find that people will pay thousands of dollars per car on systems that keep them connected while they drive. And they argue that perfecting such systems is safer in the long run than banning the use of smartphones in cars because drivers will resort to using them anyway in more distracting ways.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 2 Years Ago
      u r not going to stop me from using my phone u can get rid of that idea u r trying to stop people from talking while driving IT WONT WORK STUPID!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! people r still talking while driving why don't u take it from the cops. and u to IT WON"T WORK ..........u dumb ass!!!
        • 2 Years Ago
        while talking on phone you have an accident, they'll check your phone record including location and they'll put you away where you can take an anger management class on the state's tab.
      • 2 Years Ago
      Obviously Hersman and LaHood have not researched the accident raw databases over the past 10 years. Those compiled government RAW databases of crashes and incidents reveal distracted driving as the number 1 cause of vehiclular accidents/incidents. Of those distractions, cell phone use is not even in the top 3 causes of distracted driving. The top most common causation of accidents: falling asleep, distracted driving from occupants other than the driver(mom reaching behind to beat her kids while driving), food consumption, speed, mechanical failure, debris in the roadway and general distractions not listed as cell phone related. Most cell phone related distractions/accidents occur with people under the age of 23 and a substantial number of those are under 19. Other distractions similar to cell phone use: reading while driving, putting on makeup, shaving, talking to occupants. The list is endless of driver distractions and what it really comes down to is surrounding the driver in a shell so he/she is forced to actually drive the car. We still had distracted driving even before cell phones came into use. The accident rate has declined some years even with cell phones being available. The answer does not lie in banning cell phones. Most of these government/private "leaders" are just on a publicity crusade for banning things that really are not the root cause.
      • 2 Years Ago
      I can understand banning texting while driving. My home state just made it a primary offense so they can pull you over and give you a ticket for it. But banning hands free talking? How often do you talk to another person in the car with you while driving? The only difference is hitting a button to answer the phone. I really don't see a need for this as much as banning the texting while driving. Manufacturers are already making it easier to link cell phones to the car so you can use built in buttons to accomplish all this without having to reach for the phone. You can't expect them to retrofit older cars that may not have all this though.
      • 2 Years Ago
      No more listening to the radio or talking to your passengers . It's unsafe . Get rid of the windshield wipers and make a better way to clear your windshield because the wipers are unsafe .
      • 2 Years Ago
      LaHood must be owned by the telecom industry
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