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."

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)

    Let’s not send a message we are the rulers of the world. That’s there internal affair.
    However, what is shocking is that most these victims don’t even get proper lawyers or opportunity to prove their innocence.
    If they want to practice this this must be transparent, let the world know what all is about.
    This not going to happen as long as this so called royals rule the country and they know they are next and its only matter of time. I think robbed that country of trillions and trillions of dollars.

    NTSB is completely out of touch with reality, we are in a different age, surrounded by devices and more importantly a culture of instant communication. Banning is plain stupidity, they need to work with FCC in creating a standard that all phones or mobile devices must connect to Automobiles and communicate hands free, say by end of 2012. Same with Automobile industry that they must accommodate mobile devices in all cars sold in US by the end of 2012 and further make kits available on older cars…

    December 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. quixote

    Ban driver use of phones in cars. Do it. Do it now!

    To those saying it's just like eating, etc.: No, it isn't, and there are the MRIs to prove it. We're social animals, and talking takes over our brains in a way that putting on makeup does not. As for talking to a passenger, they can see you drifting toward the semi, and stop talking. It is not the same.

    Enforcement could be easy as pie. One would be an RF interference field if the ignition is on. Yes, that gets passengers too, but it would sure be effective at getting people to pull off the road to make calls. Or require phone companies to report calls that used more than one cell during the call. Those that do get an automatic ticket.

    So don't say a ban couldn't be enforced. We're just not willing to use the tools to do it. A few hundreds of thousands more have to be maimed and killed before we get it, I guess.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adolph

      this guy should have an anal probe up his ass to make sure he isn't eating too many "empty calories" what's next? hey NTSB, try sitting in traffic for 2 hours in LA and not using your phone to keep your sanity or to let people know how late you'll be... good job fixing the traffic issues in our country NTSB! I can see the incidence of road rage skyrocketing if this NAZI plan is adopted.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • V

      you are right do it now

      December 14, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  3. ccp

    I've been in a multi leval parking garage when people are getting off work and driving down ramps it the garage with their stupid cell phones stuck in their ears. What is so darned important that it can' wait until they are parked someplace?

    December 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. wondering

    What about the distraction taking place by people that are obsessed to find and call out other drivers that are using cell phones while driving?

    "Look! There goes one now! He shouldn't be driving and texting!" SLAM! "Whoops, sorry, I was just noticing that other guy next to me driving while texting and not paying attention in front of me."

    December 13, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • 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 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. dede4007

    People are NOT using common sense when it comes to phones so I say YES, let's have restrictions on phone use in automobiles. Every single time I'm in the car, at least one car "almost" hits me due to a person on a cell phone. I have to do DOUBLE DUTY when it comes to driving because not only am I watching out for others, I'm watching out for MYSELF too. I already have severe back pain from a rear end collision, from a girl who was "distracted". (She was looking for her friends in McDonald's and wasn't watching where she was driving) This young girl hit my car and caused me severe neck and back pain with ruptured discs and subsequent surgeries. PLEASE STOP DRIVING WHILE USING A CELL PHONE.......pull over and call. We have driven for decades without phones, so we DON'T need them. The cell phone has become a real nuisance today, (even more so than a help)

    December 13, 2011 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Chris in NC

    "distarcted" drivers? That's to kind a label. We all know what these people really are. Can you see the "distracted" driver freaking out when shee is charged with reckless endangerment; or the self-promoting contractor is charged with vehicular manslaughter? That's what we need.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. dandelo

    Cells phones are no more dangerous than having misbehaving kids in the car or letting your dog ride in the front seat when it keeps moving back and forth to your lap and while yes i agree texting should be illegal talking on a cell phone is no more distracting then many other things people have, or do in their car

    December 13, 2011 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • V

      this is true.... that is why they made it illegal to put on make up while driving People don't use common sense

      December 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Lynn

    I've always wondered what's so important they need to be yacking about? Personally I stick my garage door opener in my ear to impress the talkers. I've got nothing important to say that won't wait, but will appear to others as if I do.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Michael

    While I agree with banning texting and hands-on usage while driving, the truth is that hands-free talking is little different than carrying on a conversation with someone else in the car while driving. Shall we ban that as well? Also, smart phones these days serve a variety of functions. For example, I moved to a new area within the last six months and I use the GPS and Google Maps ability on my phone as a GPS. It's mounted at the upper-end of my dashboard just to the right of my instrument cluster. Do you also ban GPS devices? Just my thoughts....

    December 13, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DoctorDave

    Current cell phone technology provides the ability to calculate how fast a cell phone is moving when it is in use. It would be no technical challenge at all to rig them so they shut off if they are moving faster than a human being can walk. I don't care what a cell phone user thinks his or her RIGHTS are. They are NOT more important than MY rights!

    Oregon has a law requiring cell phone use while driving to be hands-free, but the law has an exception for "business use", which renders the law totally useless. The hands-free law has had absolutely no effect on the number of people I see EVERY DAY driving with a cell phone in their hand. In fact, I see more people doing it now than ever before. People disobey traffic laws with impunity, knowing that there is very little chance that they will be caught. A technological solution is needed. We should also put clauses in auto insurance policies that make the driver 100% responsible for the full cost of any accident-related damages if they are found to have been using a cell phone when the accident occurred. You either have to take away the ability or make people pay heavily for noncompliance, or both.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • V

      I like that idea....that sounds good. However, how many traffic jams are cause by people that slow down to a snails pace to get on that cell phone and tie up traffic.... it is getting worse and worse

      December 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jishboy

    for those that think this will not work or that it's a silly law: well, let me ask you that, AFTER you get rear ended, or when you lose a love one, or if you just happen to be a victim of a horrible accident BECAUSE of someone who was/is texting or yapping on a cell phone????... don't think your not immune to this....

    December 13, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeffery

    I would agree with a limited ban - don't ban hands free cell phones. But, texting? Yes. Internet? Yes. Putting on make up? Yes. Reading the newspaper? Yes. Here's the problem ... if states can't or won't enforce drunk driving offenses, a ban on these other things will be meaningless.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Old Shoe

    I started in cellular at the very inception of the Cellular Phone era in Chicago, and at that time, all car phones were REQUIRED by FCC to have hands free. With the invention of hand held cells that went away. One issue I see in banning cell phone use in cars is whether passengers are banned from cell phone use as well. Cell phone sofware companies and the Teleco Carriers themselves have had the means of preventing cell phone use while in motion for quite awhile now. Simply have handset soft ware block all incoming and outgoing texts and phone calls when the GPS built into the handset sees the handset is travelling faster than 5 mph. Of course this would also eliminate cell phone use on skateborads and bicycles too. 🙂

    December 13, 2011 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Chazmataz

    Is anyone going to say it? Picking your nose in the car – I was rear-ended by a guy whose finger got STUCK in his nose cuz he hit me so hard. And now, there's a booger on my back windshield. WHEN OH WHEN will my government step in and BAN NOSE PICKING !!

    December 13, 2011 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Patricksday

    I have seen people slow down to 45 on a city freeway so they can text, many are young people who believe its okay, and screw anyone else who denies them their ignorance to put others at risk for a car accident.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • V

      thank you your are right

      December 14, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
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