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. Joe Mahma

    .

    It's amazing how many idiots I still see holding phones up to their ears while driving.

    It's like watching idiots on bikes drag their feet to stop instead of using the brakes because they can't figure out how to work the brake levers.

    Bluetooth headsets are cheap and there are some that work well. Why people can't make use of them on a wide scale is baffling to me.

    .

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

      when i get on the road i feel like i'm driving with 10,000 drunks around me. we should have at least hands free talking and none whatsoever texting with a high fine for doing it. it's crazy out there

      December 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mary

    What would you think if you saw a person driving a car and had an old typewriter sitting on the dash board and the driver was typing while driving??? Same thing, but probably not as distracting as a cell or texting since the driver would at least be looking at the window.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tom

    Well, there goes another freedom out the window. Ron Paul 2012!

    December 13, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jane

      I support Ron Paul, but I also support this ban. I wouldn't want people drinking alcohol while driving, and it appears texting and driving is far more dangerous than drunk driving. If you are driving – then DRIVE. You're operating a very large piece of heavy machinery at high speeds. Save the texting for when you're not doing something quite so dangerous. Too bad we need a LAW to state this.

      December 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • V

      FREEDOM ??? you think putting everyone arond you in danger of being hurt a freedom ??? i beg to differ

      December 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Alan

    A ban is meaningless if it isn't enforced. Today's laws aren't enforced at all I don't see this making any difference.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Texas driver

    For real? We are being told that people can't drive and talk at the same time? Guess we should outlaw radio communications with our pilots after all they are distracted right?

    December 13, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wes

      Only if they are flying over Texas

      December 13, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      For real, you cant drive and talk at the same time!!! If you want to put your life in danger, I dont care, but my life is a different matter. Ban the hell out of cell phones while driving. People are idiots!!

      December 13, 2011 at 6:16 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... if 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 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DJ

    Yeah okay, but tell me again: How did the teenager using his cell phone prevent the bus drivers from stopping?

    I'm all for traffic safety, but let's not forget the basics while we're jumping on the latest bandwagon.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  7. the_dude

    Anyone caught talking or texting while driving should lose their license permanently.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  8. griff

    I have a better idea – don't ban the use of cell phones – every cell phone has a GPS in it, right? Force the manufacturers to put in a circuit that if the cell phone is moving more than 15MPH – it shuts off. Now you don't have to worry about enforcement..... it just isn't possible to use it.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • V

      No not 15 mph.... it shuts off when the car moves.... people will tie traffic up going 15 on the interstates. If the phone is not hands free, it should not be operation at any speed

      December 14, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  9. artdcat

    Rather than ban the use entirely I see no issue with hands free kits. As a sales rep, I have used a hands free head set for years and will not drive without one. They are way safer. To say that hands free kits would be also illegal is typical of big government....assinine. 330,000,000 people in the U.S.A. and 3,400 of them are changing our world.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tim

    The key issue here is responsibility! It is time to stop blaming inanimate objects and focus on the real problem. People are not held accountable for their actions. Driving a car or any other vehicle is a responsibility, and if people cannot handle that then more laws are not going to make a difference. A law that would make more sense is the mandatory retesting for all drivers, along with required education if they have any violations involving a vehicle before they are allowed to drive again.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Tim,
      I could not agree more with your comment. I believe that too many in this country believe that driving is a right. It is a privilage that must be earned. If people are no longer willing to earn it (ie, paying attention, learing the rules of the road, being responsible) then it should be taken away.

      December 13, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mjw

    I see drivers all the time talking or texting while driving and yes, they are a hazard to others. I really don't care if they kill or maim themselves due to their own stupidity but, they may kill or maim others. Texting while driving is more insane than just talking on a cell and driving. There are ways to find out if a person was talking or texting while driving in the event of an accident. A check of calls or text at the exact time of the accident could be done by the authorities. All records are maintained by the cell carrier. Don't think they are not! Check your cell phone bill. And, the evidence could be used to sue the texter/talker. How could they deny the computer records? They can't.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Andy

    If you learn to fly an airplane, at the start the instructor handles all the radio calls, because there's just too much happening to be able to manage the aircraft and talk to ATC sensibly at the same time. As your training progresses, they gradually let you start handling the radio, but teaching you how to focus on the most important things at any point in time. The communications is low on the list of priorities – flying the aircraft and maintaining situational awareness is always most important. But when you learn to drive a car, you're never taught how to do it while on the phone! Most drivers don't know how to maintain the situational awareness while driving – that voice in the ear takes over as the primary input and they lose contact with the important things.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Linda

    I hope they ban it. On a daily basis I see in the newspaper someone crossing center line and killing themselves and/or someone else–i.e. distracted. In today's paper the Highway Patrol actually said the person was texting (Stillwater, OK) She died. It is just as bad as drunken driving–they are putting everyone in danger, and somehow these people think nothing applies to them. They are idiots, and dangerous to the rest of us. And it's always obvious when someone is on the phone–all of a sudden someone is going 30 in a 55 MPH, or similar.

    Really people–are you that important or whatever that you need to be on the phone all the time? You're sick. Any call can wait.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. LOL

    Regardless if there's a law or not, people are still going to break it. I live in Washington state and although phones are banned on the road I see numerous of idiots all over the highway with their heads down or phone glued to their face. I think it'd be hard to enforce, but a good idea.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brian

    How will you enforce this? I live three blocks from a police station and every day I see off duty policemen driving through red lights while talking on a cell phone.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
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