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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mixed Reactions To Broad Cell Phone Driving Ban


There’s been a lot of reaction, positive and negative, to yesterday’s call from the National Transportation Safety Board for states to ban all cell phone use– even hands-free– while driving.

Among the naysayers:

  • Florida Sheriff Ben Johnson says the law would be “near impossible to enforce.”
  • Georgia State Senator Jack Murphy says a total ban goes too far. (The state already bans texting while driving, and talking on a phone while driving for anyone under 18.)
  • Chicago business owner Leila Noelliste told the Huffington Post that she is against the ban because being able to talk on the cellphone “when I’m running around town” is important to self-employed people like herself.

Those in favor include:

Mary Maguire, spokesperson for AAA, told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that distracted driving is a serious problem and she hopes the NTSB recommendations provoke debate about the topic.

However, she says it would be difficult to garner the kind of public support needed to forge these recommendations into law.

“I do think that it’s probably unrealistic because there is not one state in the union that has an overall ban. So I think that gives us an indication of legislative sentiment as well as public sentiment,” she said.

NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman said she realized the ban might be unpopular but that “no call, no text, no update is worth a human life,” she said. “This is a difficult recommendation, but it’s the right recommendation and it’s time,” she said.

In giving the reasoning for the recommendation, Hersman said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 3,000 people lost their lives last year in “distraction-related accidents.”

The board made the recommendation following a deadly highway pileup in Missouri last year  in which a teenager was found to have sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes before the accident.

Nine states now ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving and 35 states have laws against texting while driving.

And contrary to popular belief, research from the National Safety Council shows that hands-free devices offer no safety benefits for drivers.


  • Mary Maguire, spokesperson for AAA

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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