Federal investigators today called for a nationwide ban on using cell phones while driving.
"More than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents," said National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman. "It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving."
The Board is normally charged with investigating accidents, not setting policy.
The board's recommendation came on the heels of an investigation into a multi-car pileup that happened in Missouri last August, when a pickup truck ran into the back of a truck-tractor that had slowed due to an active construction zone. The pickup truck, in turn, was struck from behind by a school bus. That school bus was then hit by a second school bus that had been following. Two people died and 38 others were injured.
According to the NTSB's press release, the investigation revealed that the pickup driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes preceding the accident. The last text was received moments before the pickup struck the truck-tractor.
Department of Transportation Ray LaHood has made distracted driving one of his key issues. When he unveiled crash statistics for 2010 earlier this month, he announced a new category: the "distraction-affected crash” measure, which collects data about the role distracted driving plays in accidents. He wrote in a blog post that "data confirms that driver distraction continues to be a significant safety problem. For example... more than three-quarters of the drivers told us they answer calls on all, some, or most trips when they're behind the wheel."