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NTSB Wants Truck Drivers to Hang Up and Drive Safely

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently issued a recommendation to ban commercial drivers from using cell phones – both handheld and hands-free – while behind the wheel.

NTSB’s recommendation in part was spurred by a fatal March 2010 accident in Kentucky that involved a truck-tractor semitrailer driven. The truck left the southbound lane of the interstate, crossed the median, entered northbound travel lanes and struck a 15-passenger van. In all, 11 people were killed in the crash, including the truck driver, who was believed to have been using his cell phone immediately prior to the crash.

Investigators also determined that the driver used his mobile phone for calls and text messages a total of 69 times while driving in the 24-hour period prior to the accident.

"Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways," said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds."

NTSB’s recommended ban includes all cell phone use, both handheld and hands-free, by commercial motor vehicle drivers except in emergency situations. The National Safety Council (NSC), which has long addressed the dangers of distracted driving, applauded NTSB’s recommendation.

“NSC strongly supports the NTSB recommendation for a total ban,” said Janet Froetscher, NSC president and CEO. “The Council called for a national ban on all cell phone use among drivers in 2009, recognizing that research shows no safety benefit from hands-free devices. The distraction to the brain from cell phone use can cause drivers to miss seeing up to 50 percent of their driving environment. The NTSB recommendation is a significant step in recognizing these dangers on a national scale.”

NSC estimates 23 percent of crashes involve cell phone use each year. According to NTSB, because cell phone conversations cognitively distract drivers, shifting their attention from the task of driving and altering their behavior, both handheld and hands-free devices impair driving.

The synopsis of NTSB's report includes a complete list of all the safety recommendations.

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