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The use of cell phones while driving is a hot topic in safety. While distracted driving is gaining more attention, it is still unlikely there will be a complete ban of the kind called for the by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB has attempted to limit the use of electronic devices for the past 10 years, recommending bans for novice drivers, commercial truckers and school bus drivers. The latest proposal, if adopted, would prohibit all calls and texting by drivers of every vehicle on the road and would apply to both hands-free and hand-held devices.

Even though a total ban would be the safest policy, "States are not likely to embrace an absolute ban which is being proposed by the NTSB,” Council of State Governments Executive Director and CEO David Adkins told CNN. As evidence of this, limits on cell phone use to reduce distracted driving have been in place since 2000. This year, 2012, Alaska becomes the first state to consider a total prohibition.

“This issue would be the equivalent of the 18th Amendment today," Adkins said. "It just won’t work. It’s a controversial issue, and, as such, it’s going to take a long time for legislatures to pass laws.”

NTSB's hope is that its call for taking cell phones out of drivers' hands and off their minds is that it gets people’s attention. The proposal's target — distracted driving — is “the new DUI,” said NTSB Chairwoman Deborah Hersman said. Hersman did acknowledge that getting the ban would be a “challenge” that would take a long time and stated that federal authorities have no plans to force states to act on the proposal.

Current Bans

To date, nine states and the District of Columbia prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel. Talking on a hand-held device is considered a careless driving offense if accompanied by another moving violation, in Utah, the 10th state.

Thirty states and the District of Columbia prohibit inexperienced drivers and teens from using a cell phone while driving, but no state has banned all drivers.

In 2009, an estimated 20 percent of injury accidents involved reports of distracted driving. More than 6,000 deaths are attributed to distracted-driving each year, and of those, 995 involved a driver using a cell phone.


About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.

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