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. loren

    No no no whats next the radio, cb. a bad driver is a bad driver. fact: the number of fatal accident has gone down in the past years not up.i also have rights and i served my country for 12 years in the air force. i served to protect my rights and yours.every time we get new laws we loose civil freedom and some day the government will tell us how to eat sleep walk and talk..... and by the way pizza is not a vegetable.

    December 14, 2011 at 11:53 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • V

      I served my country too. What is someone texting..hit you and seriously injured say your child or unfortunately killed them, these people are dangerous...

      December 14, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christopher

      Radios' and CB Radios' are not included in the recommendation and I would be in absolute agreement with you on those two, if they were to suddenly come under fire. Because, They serve crucial purposes.

      The difference between those two and a cell phone is, active communication. While one could become distracted by something on the radio, it is a one-way 'conversation'. CB Radios', are a two-way communication device but, they do not require the intense immediate focus that a cell phone does, and it is not a device used for talking to one person for hours at a time.

      December 14, 2011 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. HERBERT LINDSTADT

    NOT ONLY SHOULD THE FINES BE TRIPLED, BUT THE CELL PHONES CONFISCATED

    December 14, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Lane in Seattle

    Cell phones are one of those huge "pet peeve" issues with some people, many who seem to consider it "rude" when you have half a conversation in front of them ... where they can't be nosy and listen in to the whole thing. If you were walking past them with a friend in public, talking, they'd never say a word to you ... but walk past one of these people on your cell phone talking (like I did a while back ... when a total stranger snarled at me and called me "rude") ... and they act like you've committed a massive breach of the social contract.

    Don't believe me? Just look at how much some of the posters here hate them ....

    I think this NTSB recommendation is–in no small part–being influenced by that prejudice. Sure, "distracted drivers" are dangerous ... but there's a million different things that can "distract" a driver ... other passengers, the radio, dropping something on the floor, trying to eat while you drive, digging in your purse, the list goes on and on.

    In addition, they can't back their numbers up ... because–statistically–we drive far better than we did in the past, AND our equipment is better capable of protecting us. In a CNN story a mere six days ago (http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/08/travel/traffic-deaths/index.html?iref=allsearch) ... the DOT reported that traffic deaths declined AGAIN in 2009 ... now down to 1949 levels ... even though we drove more miles than the year before ... and–in the NTSB's own report (http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/research/wireless/)–cell phone usage in the US has been going up by roughly 40% a year for the last 2+ decades. That doesn't jive with this DIRE recommendation.

    In other words ... the NTSB can't sell this one any other way ... except to play to the sympathies of those who really do hate cell phones at some level.

    December 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • V

      what world are you living in. In order to drive you need to watch what is in front of you. how can you do that texting ? Are you that stupid. Who cares what people think when you are walking. Of course if you are texting and walk into traffic you would want to be taken care of tho i bet...even tho you walked into traffice with you head in a cell phone..... What is wrong with you

      December 14, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. witsend

    I have not seen any logical explanation for including hands-free phones in a ban. Where is there any danger in that? There is no more than carrying on a conversation with a passenger. Should that be outlawed too?

    December 14, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • V

      Have you been on these roads driving ??? People with their head down, not watching where they are driving are !) not watching where they are going..if there is a car that they are approaching the back end of, if there just happens to be a red light, if there's anyone in the cross walk, a child in the road. 2) they drive all over the road 3) they drive 2 miles an hour on a 35 mph stretch ...making people late for what ever, 4) the sit at red lights forever..... sit there thru 3 lights texting. What will you say when you are hit and maybe hurt to the point that you can no longer funciton normally, im a nurse and have seen hundreds already... main reasons today turn out that they were on the cell phone or texting I didn't see them or I thought it was clear when I got thru. And just for your info.... Conversations with a passenger instead of looking at the road should be outlawed... it is not safe. You are not sitting in a powder puff... that will not do damage to property or to a person if you hit something or someone.. I is cause loss of life and limb. You need to look at your statistic again, or come join my at the ER for about 2 weeks and see for your self

      December 14, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Fred

    Cell/text while driving is easy to control. Take out the hotspot devices being installed and replace then with a cell jammer/dampening field device for G3/G4 (make sure there is an interface so it can be updated for future spectrums).
    There, done. no distractions for the driver including from others sitting in the car who are talking on the phone or texting.
    I sure hate listening to others converstations while else where (malls, Doctor's offices etc) why do I want it in my car?
    As for emergency's when you need your cell phone???....have an emergency turn off switch which turns off the jammer and turns on some form of lighted signal in the front and the back of the car (come on....it's an emergency so you want to be visible, you want to attract attention) so that emergency providers such as police can see that you have disengaged the jammer and are in need of help and if misusing the turn off switch, you can be ticketed.

    December 14, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. V

    Have you been on these roads driving ??? People with their head down, not watching where they are driving are !) not watching where they are going..if there is a car that they are approaching the back end of, if there just happens to be a red light, if there's anyone in the cross walk, a child in the road. 2) they drive all over the road 3) they drive 2 miles an hour on a 35 mph stretch ...making people late for what ever, 4) the sit at red lights forever..... sit there thru 3 lights texting. What will you say when you are hit and maybe hurt to the point that you can no longer funciton normally. Im a nurse and have seen hundreds already... main reasons today turn out that they were on the cell phone or texting I didn't see them. You are not sitting in a powder puff... that will not do damage to property or to a person if you hit something or someone.. It is the cause loss of life and limb. I agree with possible putting equipment in the phone that shuts it off, but it has to shut the cell phone off when the car moves at any speed.... cause these people with cause major traffic jams, they don't care as long as they can text.

    December 14, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. John

    In Texas, cell phones have become part of the driving culture. Stop the Federal government from stomping on States! Keep States' laws or lack of them regarding cell phones!

    December 14, 2011 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. thomas hagle

    what's really funny is that integrated car phones are exempt. So you can not use your own hands free device but if the auto manufacturer provides it, then its okay??? wait, does this mean auto manufacturer will charge me monthly fee for cell phone as well? then I will have my own cell phone to use, another monthly fee. sounds like more money out of my pocket to me and going to auto industry.

    December 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Ed

    Some states already have bans on texting while driving and here in Connecticut drivers must use hands-free devices to carry on a phone conversation. I think these measures are reasonable and effective to eliminate problems involved with handling the phone or being distracted from watching the road by reading screens or typing. As for the allegation that merely talking on the phone while driving is a serious safety problem, I just don't buy it. People talk to other people within the vehicle all the time and I have NEVER heard of someone having an accident because someone in the car asked them a question or was telling them something. The truth is, there are too many idiots with licenses and nobody has done a "study" on that problem. I find the rather common problem of people "confusing the gas with the brake" and driving into buildings to be an unbelievably stupid excuse and evey one of those drivers should have been charged with SOMETHING (failure to maintain contol of their vehicle at LEAST) but many are not. If we are going to allow people who sometimes confuse the gas for the brake to keep driving then cell phone conversations should not even be considered.

    The exception that a manufacturer installed hands-free system is somehow "okay" (safe to use?) but one installed by an individual isn't (why not?) just goes to show how flawed the alleged "study" is. Anyone with a functioning brain will take this study for what it's worth...nothing.

    Every time the federal government can't deal with something it should be working on (the ECONOMY!) they release some dim-witted "study" to get everyone distracted from the real problems facing this country. This is just one of those smoke and mirrors side-shows trying to do just that.

    December 14, 2011 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. steve

    I don't text nor do I get emails and have blue tooth in my radio which is voice activated. My phone is in my pocket while i'm
    driving so talking on the phone is no different than talking to someone sitting next to me. What's next no talking to the driver? The ntsb should stay out of my car.

    December 14, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Larry

    The NTSB is one of the federal agencies that needs to be cut. It should be up to the states to handle the problem by punishing the people that cause accidents not punishing everyone. The NTBS is doing nothing but playing political games. If they were serious about public safety they would get these idiot bike riders off the streets, Not to mention the millions of people in this country that drive and cannot read or speak English. How do they read the street signs ?? Tell me that is not an issue but yet the NTBS will not speak of it. Tell me politics are not involved here. Safety has nothing to do with it. You can ban everything you could ever dream up and there will still be accidents. Was it cell phones that distracted drivers 50 years ago. ? I think not..Don't get me wrong, I don't support people that text and drive they are idiots, but they are the ones that should pay the price . I am an over the road truck driver and I see at least a hundred people a day that are NOT texting or talking on the phone and they should not be allowed anywhere near the road. Trust me, cell phone users are the least of your worries. That being said, have a wonderful day and think about all those drivers who can't read the same signs you can and don't carry any insurance. They are the ones along side you everyday. Think about it on your way to work tomorrow.

    December 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Sam

    This entire issue is a ticking time bomb ready to explode. Unfortunately, until some (in)famous celebrity is hurt or killed, nothing will be done to make the roads safe for the rest of us.

    December 15, 2011 at 9:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
  13. seg58

    Do we really need to talk on our cell phones while we drive our car's come on if we need to talk on our cell phones then why can't we call the person before we leave the house, before someone ealse gets killed.

    December 15, 2011 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Soap

    Interesting that some say they should ban smoking etc. cause it kills and other sarcasm. Very unlikely a cigarette will kill your entire family while waiting for a red light ! Ms Self Important with the phone can ! I don't have Blue Tooth or even a headset. Its simple, even if its Obama calling he will have to leave a msg if Im driving.

    December 15, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Sam

    The solution is self control: Self-control separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We have the ability to refrain from doing things we'll regret and use willpower.

    December 16, 2011 at 9:05 am | Report abuse | Reply
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