Truck drivers who’ve felt singled out by talk of cell phone bans can take heart: It’s not just about trucks anymore. Thanks to a strong correlation between fatality crashes and cell phone usage while driving, on Tuesday the five-person National Transportation Safety Board unanimously recommended a universal ban on talking, texting, and emailing while driving ALL motor vehicles — even when using hands-free devices.
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Investigators have increasingly linked use of cell phones (texting and talking) to accidents involving cars, trucks, and trains. Last year, a 19-year-old sent and received 11 texts in the 11 minutes before he caused a fatal highway pileup in Missouri. Crash investigators now routinely request cell phone and texting records in connection with accident investigations. In many recent high-profile fatality truck and bus accidents, drivers were using such electronics either just before or during the crashes.
While the NTSB cannot itself impose restrictions, federal and state regulators and lawmakers pay attention to its recommendations. Tuesday the NTSB also recommended more aggressive enforcement of existing bans on texting and other behaviors already prohibited while driving.
Texting while driving is currently illegal in 35 states and the District of Columbia, and talking on a hand-held cell phone is prohibited in nine states and D.C. (See my map of states by restrictions.) Beginning drivers may not use a cell phone at all in 30 states. But these laws go unenforced by and large, and so far, not one state has a ban in place like the one the NTSB is proposing.
Michael Leizerman is a truck accident lawyer and author of the book Litigating Truck Accident Cases.