Getting serious about distracted driving

By Deborah Hersman

Teen texting while drivingRecently, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released a new report on the effects of distractions, particularly the use of cell phones and texting, while driving. We at the NTSB were pleased to read the report and the valuable recommendations it makes.

After citing several studies, the GHSA concludes that cell phone use increases crash risk, though there is no consensus on the extent of its impact on driving. We agree, however we believe that the significant danger to safety that cell phones pose is greater than the report suggests and affects more than just highway safety. We have investigated numerous accidents, in all modes of transportation, where cell phone use caused injury and loss of life. If not for the cell phone use, some of those accidents were otherwise completely avoidable. And even in accidents when cell phone use was not the primary cause of the investigation, we’ve often found that the cell phone contributed to the tragic results by distracting the operator’s attention at a key moment.

Our society must reach the point that texting or using a cell phone — whether when operating a vessel, a train, or a motor vehicle — is just as unacceptable as drinking and driving.

How many more lives will be lost before our nation corrects its deadly and tacit acceptance of distractions?

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