Ban a demonstrated lifesaver
Washington Post editorial
Personal electronic devices have dramatically changed the way most people go about their lives – largely for the better. But irresponsible use has also introduced serious hazards.
Last year, about eight people died each day in vehicle accidents linked to distracted driving and the use of electronic devices. These 3,029 avoidable tragedies were a catalyst for the National Transportation Safety Board’s groundbreaking and potentially life-saving “no call, no text, no update” proposal last week. The board unanimously urged states to pass legislation banning the use of personal electronic devices while driving. The board proposed a narrow exception for emergencies. It also called on the CTIA, The Wireless Association and the Consumer Electronics Association to encourage development of technology that would dis-able portable devices within reach of the driver when a vehicle is in motion but could be overridden in emergency situations.
The dangers of texting while driving have been thoroughly documented, including in a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, which showed that texting renders drivers 23 times more likely to have an accident or a close call. Thirty-five states (including Indiana) and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving.
States have been slower to prohibit cellphone conversations. Yet studies show that speaking on a cellphone while driving distracts a driver more than listening to music or speaking with a passenger. D.C. and 10 states prohibit talking on a hand-held device while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The use of a hands-free device does not appear to diminish the risks and in some cases may increase them. Research has shown that drivers who speak on hand-held devices at least tend to compensate by slowing down, while those on hand-free devices tend not to display more caution.
The American Insurance Association, which supports a total ban, calls the use of mobile devices by drivers “a major epidemic.” Public awareness, legislation and enforcement are key to weaning drivers off of these devices. It should not take another 3,000 deaths.