Back in January, I wrote about distracted driving and the need for drivers to be aware that the rules differ from state to state. I’d like to follow up to that post by talking about the discussion that’s been spurred by the call for a nationwide ban on portable electronic devices (PEDs) by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
In December of last year, the NTSB issued a press release calling for a nationwide ban on driver use of any PED. This proposed ban would apply to all drivers – not just federal and commercial employees.
Rules already in place
There are currently rules on the books that prohibit commercial drivers from using hand-held PEDs. The most recent took effect this January when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) implemented a new law banning commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. To learn more about this ban, read the news release announcing the final rule; for more information on the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) regulatory campaign, visit distraction.gov.
Similar policies apply to federal employees. Back in 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving – and encouraging contractors and other businesses who work with the government to implement similar texting policies.
The key is that these bans only apply to hand-held devices. The NTSB is calling for an end to both hand-held and hands-free cell phone use – for all drivers.
As I talked about in my earlier post, many states have their own distracted driving rules in place, but to date, there’s nothing on a national level. And that’s why the debate is heating up.
Watching the reaction
While most people agree that texting while driving isn’t safe, they don’t agree about whether or not to ban drivers from using PEDs altogether.
The reaction to the NTSB’s call for a cold turkey ban on cell phone use has been interesting to watch. I follow the ANSI/ASSE SH&E Standards Information Center LinkedIn group, and one discussion on Distracted Driving showed the varied responses people have to the proposed ban, ranging from:
- Yes, a nationwide ban on all hand-held and hands-free devices is needed.
- No, best practices and driver education are preferred to mandatory rules.
- No, we shouldn’t tailor “one-size-fits-all” rules to the least competent person.
- Yes, more regulations are good but should exclude hands-free devices.
- No, distracted driving takes many other forms as well – like eating/drinking, grooming, smoking, music, etc.
Motor Trend provides insight into how members of the automobile industry view the proposed ban in a post called NTSB’s Cell Phone Ban Recommendation – Why It’s Unenforceable. Author Edward A. Sanchez makes a case for the use of hands-free devices in cars and the need for the NTSB to work with the electronics and auto industries “to try to find a reasonable middle ground that finds a way to safely and reasonably accommodate technology that has become integral to tens (if not hundreds) of millions of Americans, without resorting to a sweeping, absolute mandate that for all intents would be practically unenforceable.”
Clearly, there’s more debate to come. Take a minute to voice your opinion using the Quipol poll below. I welcome your comments.