Thursday, December 15, 2011

NTSB to the States: “Ban Texting While Driving”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a strong recommendation to the states that they should ban texting while driving. The recommendation comes after a well-publicized accident last year in which a teen driver slammed into truck, causing two school buses to lose control as well. Two persons were killed (including the teen driver) and 38 school children were injured. The teen was texting at the time of the accident.

The NTSB does not have the power to require that the states ban texting; that is up to each individual state. So far, 35 states have done so, though the conditions under which a person can be cited and the penalties for an infraction vary widely.

A 2009 CBS/New York Times poll found that 97% of Americans support a ban on texting while driving. However, about half of the respondents felt that the punishment for texting while driving should be “less severe” than the punishment for drunk driving. Perhaps this is because almost half of all texting adults have texted at least once while driving, according to a 2010 poll by the Pew Research Center. It sounds like a small cry for help, doesn’t it? – “Please save me from my own bad behavior, but don’t punish me too severely!”

It would be interesting to know how much texting while driving actually declines after a state institutes a ban. My guess is that like speeding, it may depend on the perceived level of enforcement and the severity of the penalty.

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