The 5-member National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) board unanimously agreed in recommending that states ban all driver use of cell phones and other portable electronic devices, except in emergencies. The board's recommendation includes both hands-free and hand-held phones and electronic devices.
The board's recommendation was made in connection with a deadly pile-up crash near Gray Summit, Missouri in 2010. Investigators concluded the pile-up was caused by a 19-year-old pickup driver who had sent or received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes prior to the crash.
The chain reaction that followed involved a semi-truck and two school buses. The texting pickup truck driver and a 15-year-old school bus passenger were killed in the crash Thirty-eight other people were injured.
It's not possible to know from cell phone records if the driver was typing, reaching for the phone or reading a text at the time of the crash, but it's clear he was manually, cognitively and visually distracted, [said NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman].
"Driving was not his only priority," Hersman said. "No call, no text, no update is worth a human life."
The NTSB does not have authority to impose restrictions, but its recommendations often carry weight with regulators and lawmakers. At the time of the fatal crash, Missouri had a law banning drivers under 21-years-old from texting while driving, but Missouri was not aggressively enforcing the ban at that time.
"When drivers of large trucks, buses and hazardous materials take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds, the outcome can be deadly," said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused at all times while behind the wheel."
Distracted driving has become an endemic problem, with distracted driving crashes including a semi-truck / train collision, collisions with highway construction workers, multi-car pile-ups, bus drivers reading while driving passengers, and even a tractor trailer driver watching porn while driving.
Texting and using a cell phone while driving account for more than 25% of auto crashes. In fact, distracted driving can be as dangerous and as deadly as driving drunk:
- Drivers are twice as likely to cause a crash if texting than if drinking – Drunk driving increases the likelihood of a causing a car crash by 4 times while texting and driving increases the risk by 8 times
- Texting drivers need 6 times as much stopping distances to stop than a drunk driver – drunk drivers travel 4 additional feet before stopping while a texting driver travels 25 more feet before stopping
- Texting drivers typically gaze at their mobile device for 5 seconds – enough time to travel 29 car lengths at interstate speeds
A distracted semi truck driver is 23 times more likely to cause a crash or close call.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has pushed a new anti-texting message across the country: STOP THE TEXTS. STOP THE WRECKS.
And NHTSA has some chilling stats but offers some tips for prevention as well:
For more stats, click over to NHTSA's distracted driving facts section.
Just like driving a vehicle with defective tires or other defects, texting and other distracted driving can be deadly. Please don't put yourself or others at risk.
- Highway Accident Report: Gray Summit, MO: Collision Involving Two School Busses, A Bobtail and a Passenger Vehicle, August 5, 2010 [NTSB.gov]
- NTSB recommends states ban all nonemergency driver cell phone, electronic device use [AP via The Washington Post]
- Distracted Driving Dangers Mount As Cars Become An "iPhone On Wheels"
(c) Copyright 2011 Brett A. Emison
Brett Emison is currently a partner at Langdon & Emison, a firm dedicated to helping injured victims across the country from their primary office near Kansas City. Mainly focusing on catastrophic injury and death cases as well as complex mass tort and dangerous drug cases, Mr. Emison often deals with automotive defects, automobile crashes, railroad crossing accidents (train accidents), trucking accidents, dangerous and defective drugs, defective medical devices.