Politics

NTSB chair: Driving ban would cover ‘cognitive distractions’ including hands-free devices

Photo of Jeff Poor
Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

On Wednesday, National Transportation Safety Board chair Debbie Hersman made an appearance on MSNBC to elaborate on a controversial proposal to ban texting and talking while driving, explaining that across-the-board bans have proven effective with other safety issues.

“Our recommendation is to the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and we’re looking for them to set good laws, have good education and good enforcement,” Hersman said. “And we know that can be effective in changing behavior like we’ve seen in drunk driving and seat belt use and in child restraints.”

According to Hersman, the ban was inspired by several accidents that occurred recently — including rail — and air travel-related incidents as well as automobile accidents.

“We have seen locomotive engineers that are distracted by texts and run red signals — 25 people killed in Southern California,” she said. “We have seen airline pilots who have been on their laptops not responding to the air traffic control and overflying their destination. And we see it on highways. Last year, over 3,000 people died in distracted accidents. And so we are concerned about this. It is a growing problem and it is only going to get worse.”

Watch:

The NTSB’s proposed ban would cover not just texting, but all devices that provide a “cognitive distraction,” including hands-free devices as well as handheld devices.

“You know, we are really focused on the portable electronic devices that people are bringing into the cab with them,” she said. “But we do also focus on the cognitive distractions. And so that entails both handheld and hands-free. And as the cognitive distractions are dividing the attention between tasks and your brain is not good at that. Listening to someone talk on the phone takes your attention away from the roadway. We have seen hands-free accidents as well. It’s still a risk.”

Follow Jeff on Twitter