The proposal follows an NTSB meeting on a multi-vehicle crash in Missouri in 2010, where a 19-year-old driver was found to have sent 11 text messages in the 11 minutes leading up to a crash that killed himself and a 15-year-old student in a school bus. Thirty-eight other people were injured in the crash.
NTSB chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman explained the board is recommending a ban on the non-emergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task, like navigation systems) for all drivers.
"According to [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration], more than 3000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents. 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."
The proposal even suggests banning the use of Bluetooth headsets for mobile phones.
The NTSB can only make recommendations, and needs to persuade a senator or member of the house or assembly to officially introduce a bill.
The proposal comes as car makers flood new vehicles with electronic and internet-based features. A number of new cars now come with internet access, which allows drivers to check emails and browse the net through their in-car displays while on the move.
Hersman quoted a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study of drivers that found a ‘safety-critical event’ is 163 times more likely if a driver is texting, emailing 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 deadliest of distractions?”