Overheard on CNN.com: Can distracted drivers be stopped?
The new NTSB recommendation would outlaw non-emergency phone calls and texting by operators of every vehicle.
December 13th, 2011
03:16 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: Can distracted drivers be stopped?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

"I have never seen CNN comments in such agreement. This must be a good idea."
–mightyfudge

Driver behavior never fails to get people talking, especially when it involves mobile devices. One of the most popular CNN iReport stories ever was a comedic exploration of  "hands-free" driving. (Watch it, it's good.) Now, a serious comment discussion is taking place because the National Transportation Safety Board has called for a nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and text messaging devices while driving.

NTSB recommends full ban on use of cell phones while driving

Readers were largely in support of this measure. But some commenters said such bans are hard to enforce, while others were concerned that personal freedoms were being impinged upon. Some of the most compelling anecdotes were stories of accidents caused by distracted drivers.

2graddegrees: "It is needed as people do not seem to use common sense for their own safety and the safety of others. Nothing is that necessary by the majority to send or receive. One mistake costs lives or the life one had hoped for. Having lived through a highway speed head on wreck as a passenger, nothing is worth the pain, continuing disability, loss of ability to work in profession studied for, lack of independence and self sufficiency. Common tasks such as driving, reading, walking, writing we're taken from me through no fault of my own (passenger) due to another driver's lack of common sense and consideration for himself and others."

AndyMac94: "I was hit by a distracted driver in October and just finished physical therapy last week, I am thrilled to hear this news. While I sustained an injury and my Ford Edge was totaled, I was lucky enough to walk away from the crash. This legislation is important, but I would support banning hands free calls as well, it isn't just the act of holding a cell phone, it is the focus of attention on something other than driving that causes many of these accidents. Let's get this done!"

Dontcare115: "I do completely agree with this 'ban' but I think it should be closely looked over. I personally have been in an accident where the lady ran a stop light and hit me (traffic camera showed her texting on her phone and looking down). Yes, there are distractions in life such as the eating, drinking, kids, etc., but as a driver it is your duty to be responsible for not only yourself, but to other drivers."

Some said driver behavior is an underestimated threat.

USMarine67: "As an in-the-field paramedic, I welcome this call. As for those who don't, ever seen a headless 16-year-old kid still clutching on to that all important cell phone after rear-ending someone at 90 mph? Yeah, how important is that call now? Of course, the naysayers aren't the ones who have to search for the missing head either. Cell phones are just as bad as drunk drivers. Both bad ideas."

yackie73: "Distracted cell phone usage is killing the equivalent of at least one commercial airliner of people every two weeks. It is a far greater threat to your well-being than 'terrorism.' While we grope and strip people at the airports, the real carnage is happening on the roads by our own selfish hands."

Others complained of risky behavior they've observed on roadways:

sixin: "This morning on my way to work, a young woman passed me speeding through a school zone (while parents and young kids were all over) with a big smile on her face and yapping on her cell phone. She was obviously oblivious of her surroundings. Disturbing."

perryw: "I am all for the ban. I am tired of dodging people who have the left side of their face covered up with a cell phone and can't see me. They always just smile and wave as I panic and swerve to miss them. Men are just as bad as women about this. Men actually get mad at you for disturbing them with a honk to get their attention when they are about to hit you."

A bunch of our commenters already had experience with cell phone bans. They weren't in agreement as to whether such rules are effective.

NYCTraveler: "Next think you know they'll tell us it's a bad idea to play a drinking game based on William Tell with your friends. NYC (among others) banned the use of handheld cell phones while driving a long time ago and it's a better place because of it."

intheaspens: "Sounds like a great idea, but we already have that ban in place in our state. It's nigh on unenforcable. I see drivers with the phone glued to their head or texting away all the time. Can only hope it's Darwin in action and that they only take themselves out."

Guest commenter: "This is really not that big a deal. My city in Canada banned texting and phones (except hands free) about 2 years ago now. Took a few months for most people to spend the $20 on a hands-free set and after that, there were no more complaints. I'm sure they catch and fine people each month (I think it's like $125-$250) but it is really easy to get away with here at least. If you keep your eyes on the road looking for cops you're fine. But then if people kept their eyes on the road when talking on phones these laws might not be needed anyway."

Like intheaspens above, there were many commenters who said they didn't think bans could really work. That got a few debates going.

shyboy69: "Oregon's Democrat legislature passed a bill outlawing cell phone use while driving in 2008 I believe. I still see LOTS of drivers - vastly women - driving while talking on cell phones. It seems to be just another law that cops can use at will to stop someone. ..."

ukfan91: "This isn't going to be effective at all. No way in hell they'll be able to stop all these kids from doing it. Just tint my windows and be on with the texting."

Poipounder: "It works in Washington state. I was fined $100 and haven't done it since."

We also had a lot of readers who were opposed to a ban on cell phone use while driving because it restricts freedom.

strat1x: "This is absurd. What's next people, no smoking, no radio, no singing? Government stay the hell out of our lives. Once we start letting them control the little things, they will control everything. Fight back, people."

Guest commenter: "The government should not be in the business of mandating what we can or cannot do. If we want to kill our fellow Americans because of our dumb addiction to speaking on the phone while driving, we should have this right. And those whose close ones are killed because of our dumb addiction to cell phones should consider it a manifestation of the First Amendment and the guaranty of their individual liberties under the Constitution. The Obama administration should butt out of the private lives of Americans and let us do the dumb things we want to do. This is America!"

Others questioned why cell phones themselves should be singled out.

SLBoston: "I agree with this but what about women putting on makeup, men shaving, and both genders eating while driving?"

bjgreen: "So shouldn't the also ban putting on your make-up, eating, drinking a soda, handing you kid a pacifier, listening to the radio, and all of the other distractions we encounter in the car. You can't legislate everything people. Some of it is your responsibility."

GPS navigation tools were cited by some readers as potential sources of distraction.

deetroyt: "They should also ban GPS units as well, at the basic core it's the same thing as a DVD player. Moving images that you pay attention and audio."

2012Tinfoil: "I hate to admit it, but you are right. Using GPS to navigate an unfamiliar area can be distracting."

JMurph335: "Yeah. Same goes with Speedometers and all those other distractions on the dash."

Some advocated the use of hands-free phone use.

HC21: "I've talked hands-free for years now which has caused me to almost hate holding a phone to my head. lol. This seems OK to me as long as they don't take away hands free devices, since that really is just like talking to somebody sitting right next to you."

Still others wondered what took so long.

carmag: "Why did it take such a long, long time to have common sense and protect our citizens? I remember when I was given a ticket for listening to music with headphones while driving. For sure the phone companies that get billions and billions of dollars for billing for texts and cell phone calls and their senators and congressmen are more powerful than the manufacturers of headphones. Even the police officers text while 'on duty.' "

What's your take? We'd love to hear your experiences on the road. Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (201 Responses)
  1. Portland tony

    Pardon Me Ma'am, I'm from the government and I'm here to help." While you are driving you may not eat, talk to an adult , listen to music, scratch, itching, look, yell at your kids or husband, OR use a hands free dash mounted CELL PHONE (even though it's giving you driving directions).

    December 13, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Inattentive means negligent. A recent study found about 72% of all drivers engaged in cellular conversations while driving with one hand, were the equivalent of someone driving with a blood / alcohol content of .07 (legally drunk).

    December 13, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. gung hoe

    I text while Iam driving guilty as charged ossifer

    December 13, 2011 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. rooney

    Talking and texting while driving is already outlawed where I live, with the exception of hands free devices. People still do it all the time. I always try not to. I just pull over for a minute.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. abhi

    with my 37 weeks pregnant wife traveling back from a Dr visit; hit on a 4-WAY STOP sign by a mid aged lady who did not 'see' the STOP sign (on a 4-way intersection with at least 5 cars waiting on the stop sign) traveling at 50 m.p.h; she was talking to her daughter over cell-phone; happened to me about 4 weeks back; luckily everything went well for us; the only lucky thing was we did not get hit on the side, but on the outer quadrant of the car. Just lucky enough to survive.
    Just ban anything that distracts a driver; driving is the most dangerous thing we have to do on a daily basis; it is equally dangerous as driving intoxicated; people die because of this, our insurance costs will come down, lives and injuries can be reduced; I love the recommendation, just want it enforced; it is way more dangerous than driving 5 miles over limit than driving wth cell-phones on

    December 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. ronvan

    I agree with the plan! However, what are you going to do with all the police, emt's, etc., who do the same thing?

    December 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. c

    When was that picture taken...1995? Get a new image for your article.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Sullipat

    I log a lot of highway time in the northeast traveling on business. The amount of texting and very distracted drivers on phone conversations is amazing.There is little regard for state laws.I witness near accidents on a regular basis and have seen some that I suspect are from those distractions. Although I am very careful while talking on the phone using a headset I too sometimes find myself not paying attention as I should. I would welcome the forced safety measure.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. No Body

    I hope this will go for police officers also. I see alot of them on cell phones while driving. Cell phone in one hand and a donut in the other.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. drivingwaterloo

    Soo, for tractor trailer drivers this should mean CB radios should have to go as well, I mean they distract them too. And eating in the vehicle, oh and reading a book, and putting on makeup and/or combing your hair, and shaving, and changing radio stations or fiddling with your satellite radio or iPod. Ohh yeah, drinking coffee too or any beverage. Out the window goes your GPS unit as well. Oops, better not have more than one friend or companions in the vehicle too, you know you might start talking and laughing and then there you go...you're distracted. Wonder if this will apply to say motor vehicle enforcement personnel. I've seen many of them on phones or radios. yep, they are distracted too.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • LOL

      Who reads BOOKS while driving?

      December 13, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rob

    This is a good law. It should additionally say "Especially for women" who are by and large discourteous and dangerous drivers. They should allow hands free instead – same as talking to somebody in the car.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. banasy©

    This is a good law. It should also say "by anyone named Rob", just because it reminds me of Mary Tyler Moore.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bugs Ears

      @ banasy LMAO!!! and I LOVE Mary Tyler Moore

      December 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  13. KLD

    The only way to ensure no cell phone use while in a car is to work with auto manufacturers so that phones don't work inside the car. Seems like an easy electronic fix.

    December 13, 2011 at 4:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Stormdrane

      What may seem like an easy fix isn't always the case. Speed limits don't stop people from speeding, but a governor built into an engine, like some tractor trailers have, can limit a max speed a vehicle can reach, so why don't all vehicles have them? Drunk driving is illegal, so why do people still do it? Following too closely and changing lanes without signaling are illegal and cause accidents, but people still do it.... People without driving licenses or insurance still get behind the wheel and drive, etc... so forth and so on.... Making more laws is not going to stop a problem if people ignore the laws...

      December 13, 2011 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jammer

    install jammers in cars from the factory.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Harold

    They should ban cell phone use while driving right after they stop confiscating my tax dollars for public roads that require me to spend tens of thousands of dollar ANNUALLY for my own private vehicle to make any damned us of them. Give me a public transportation SYSTEM and I will GLADLY use it and fool with my cellphone the whole damn way.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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