NTSB repeats driver cell phone ban recommendation

The National Transportation Safety Board has reissued its recommendation that all drivers should be barred from using cell phones and other portable electronic devices while driving.

On Feb. 8, the board issued a statement that every state and the District of Columbia should prohibit non-emergency use of the devices. The recommendation originally was issued Dec. 13, following NTSB’s meeting on a multi-vehicle Missouri accident. That crash, which left two dead and 38 more injured, was caused by a pickup driver distracted because he was text messaging.

Also at that meeting, the board repeated recommendations the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration develop a comprehensive medical oversight program for interstate commercial drivers with a review process that prevents inappropriate issuance of medical certification.

The program should have a method for reporting medical conditions to medical certification officials and reviewing authority and should contain mechanisms that evaluate these conditions between certification exams, NTSB said.

Also on Dec. 13, the board repeated earlier recommendations regarding video event recorders and collision warning systems.

The FMCSA should require all heavy commercial vehicles to be equipped with video event recorders that are easily accessible for review. The agency also should stipulate carriers review and use recorder information with other performance data to verify that driver actions comply with regulations and safe procedures.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration should determine whether equipping commercial vehicles with collision warning systems with active braking and electronic stability control systems will reduce commercial vehicle accidents. If it determines this technology will be effective for decreasing accidents, NHTSA should require their use on commercial vehicles.

On Dec. 22, FMCSA published its final rule prohibiting hand-held phone calling for interstate CDL holders and all CDL holders transporting hazardous materials, which followed its 2010 ban on CDL holders texting while driving.

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Nine states and the District of Columbia prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. Except for Maryland, these state laws are primary enforcement—an officer may cite a driver for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Thirty-five states and District of Columbia bar motorists from texting while driving, with primary enforcement being used in 32 of those states and D.C., according to GHSA data.