Texting while driving is fast becoming the new driving under the influence.
Federal accident investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are now requesting a nationwide ban on cell phone use, including text messaging while driving. So far thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have text-messaging bans. In 31 of those states and D.C., texting is a primary offense, and means of being pulled over.
If passed, the new recommendation released Tuesday would make any non-emergency phone calls and texting by anyone operating a vehicle illegal.
Though this would not apply to passengers, drivers wouldn’t even be allowed, by law, to use electronics whether they employed hands-free or hand-held devices. Only devices originally installed in the vehicle by the manufacturer would be permitted.
This recommendation comes on the heels of a hearing regarding a Missouri highway crash that occurred last August, killing two people and injuring 38. The accident, which involved four vehicles – two of which were school buses, was found to be caused by a 19-year-old driver. The young man became distracted while sending 11 text messages in the 11 minutes leading up to the crash.
In 2010 there were an estimated 3,092 traffic related deaths caused by distracted drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In a survey released last week, the administration it found that one in six drivers send text messages while driving, and more than half of those drivers were under the age of 25.
Though Missouri is one of the states that prohibit drivers under the age of 21 from sending text messages while driving, the state’s police department has only given 120 tickets for the offense in a span of two years, according to NTSB.
A study lead by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that an accident is 163 times more likely to occur if the driver is texting, e-mailing or using the Internet.
The National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation is only a suggestion at this point, but the board has long been at the forefront of regulations involving transportation safety.