OUR OPINION: Cell use in vehicles needs discussion

By NEMS Daily Journal

A unanimous recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board that all cellphone use, except in emergencies, be banned while users are driving, undoubtedly will create intense conversation nationwide, especially in Mississippi, which has minimal regulation and only two bans on cellphone use behind the wheel.
The five-member NTSB, whose members are presidentially nominated and confirmed by the Senate, is comprised of people with extensive backgrounds in transportation safety, technology and excecutive-level private-sector business experience.
Text messaging while driving is banned in 30 states, and 10 states (none in the Deep South) ban all cellphone use while driving.
Mississippi bans use and/or texting only by school bus drivers and learner’s permit or intermediate-level license holders.
Considering the proven links between cellphone use while driving and accidents, a serious discussion of additional bans is appropriate.
NTSB has no authority to instigate bans; its decision asked that all states impose bans except in emergencies.
Published reports said a recent deadly crash in which a teenager had sent or received 11 messages in the 11 minutes before the accident pushed the recommendation, which includes banning hands-free, remotely activated cell-phone conversations. The driver and another person were killed, and 38 people injured in the Missouri accident.
The ban would not affect GPS navigation systems in use while driving.
A spokesman for a group representing state highway-safety offices called the recommendation “a game-changer.”
“States aren’t ready to support a total ban yet, but this may start the discussion,” said Jonathan Adkins, a spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association.
NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman acknowledged the recommendation would be unpopular with many people, probably an understatement.
Yet the prevalence of use in almost any day-to-day situation is adequate basis for considering how to temper the distraction of driving while using – and in the process arguably save lives and prevent injuries resulting from cellphone -related accidents.
Thirty states ban all cellphone use for beginning drivers. No states ban the use of hands-free devices.
Those who regularly use cellphones while driving, including business people, are likely to protest the recommendation.
Major accidents are cited in relation to cellphone/technology use in various situations:
• A train collision in which the engineer was texting killed 25 people in Chatsworth, Calif.
• And, in 2010, a driver was dialing his cellphone when his truck crossed a highway median near Munfordville, Ky., and collided with a van. Eleven were killed.
Technology defines the times, but its liabilities require discussion.