Thursday, December 15, 2011

Should Cell Phone Use While Driving Be Banned?

Posted By on Thu, Dec 15, 2011 at 6:38 AM

Texting while driving has been illegal in Tennessee for two and a half years now, and I doubt there are many people in their right mind who would quibble with the logic of the legislation.

But now there's a movement afoot to ban all non-emergency cellphone use while driving — including hands-free and headset calls. On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a report making just such a recommendation, in the wake of a terrible 2010 accident in Missouri involving two school buses, a bobtail and a passenger vehicle.

The recommendation:

To the 50 states and the District of Columbia:
(1) Ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers; (2) use the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration model of high visibility enforcement to support these bans; and (3) implement targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and enforcement, and to warn them of the dangers associated with the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices while driving. (H-11-XX)

Already, the recommendation is prompting backlash from outlets like PC Magazine and social media news blog Mashable. (As I wrote this post, Mashable's online poll showed 70 percent of readers opposing the ban.)

Honestly, I'm conflicted. I don't text while driving, but I do make and receive cellphone calls from time to time. I like to think that I'm paying even greater attention while I'm on the phone, to compensate for any potential distraction. But is that really the case? Am I deceiving myself?

I'm not sure such a ban will ever pass here in Tennessee, certainly not in the near future. But is it a good idea? Are we too addicted to our cellphones to think clearly on the topic? Or is the NTSB going overboard?

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