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)
  1. rightvsprivilege

    Driving is not a right. Driving is a privilege, something that you have to earn. Part of earning that privilege is being safe and not endangering the lives of others. You may consider a ban on cell phone use in cars an infringement on your freedom, but the person you kill because of your distracted driving has the right to live, and your privilege to drive is not more important than that. Government is supposed to protect rights (life, liberty, property, in that order), not privileges, and if the government fails to ban behavior that puts a significant number of other people's lives in danger, then we all lose out a lot more. People who think their privilege of texting while driving (or driving at all) is more important than someone else's right to life, well, that's what's wrong with this country.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Steve

    It doesn't matter whether your are talking to someone, tuning the radio, adjusting your mirrors, turning on the air conditioning, putting on makeup, reading the newspaper, or talking on a cellphone. If you aren't focusing on driving you ARE distracted. People are bad enough drivers as it is. A mother who is fiddling with her child while driving is distracted. If I am driving and talking to my friend sitting in the front seat I am distracted. Etc. Etc. Your primary worry when behind the wheel should be for your own safety, and that of your fellow citizens who you share the road with. Safe driving requires far more concentration and coordination than most people give it credit for. People should make an effort to keep both hands on the wheel at all times. The automobile companies have provided a lot of technology to help keep us focused on driving such as steering wheel controls and automatic climate control. I think we can all do our part to help out too. Yes, there are many ways for drivers to be distracted, but unfortunately, cellphones make this much easier, and it is clear that people are not being responsible enough on their own.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Gary

    Bad, bad idea! Right behind that will be the call for GPS operation to be outlawed while driving. Then, drinking a coffee or soft drink or eating anything. After that, any operation of the radio, especially changing CDs, or using the IPOD connection.

    People will distract themselves REGARDLESS OF WHAT REGULATIONS you create. There are way too many people who seem to think you can pass a law and make things better.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      My thoughts exactly...EXCELLENT comments. Give the government a slippery slope and they will slide all the way to no radio, no talking to passengers, etc.....and then drivers will be so BORED they will have even more accidents

      December 13, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • kornwholling

      hopefully u'll be one of the first idiots to have your license revoked for using ur dayum cellphone while driving. U certainly do not need to be operating a motor vehicle in traffic while gibbering on the cellphone and endangering other folks, that are exercising more sane behavior and watching what they are doing which should be driving ONLY!!!

      December 13, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • GaryIsAnIdiot

      Dude, seriously.

      This is NOT a partisan issue, this is a issue concerning innocent people who die because of careless behavior. When your child or loved one dies b/c someone was texting, then, comment on these forums. If you think it's a loss of liberty, then, think when you lose a life..

      Do you favor drinking and driving?
      Do you favor doing drugs?

      This issue is about common sense behavior. You don't need to text when driving. if going to talk, use hands free

      December 13, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Terry the Genius: So you actively seek out things to distract you while you are driving. Wow. I wonder if that was the mindset of the cellphon-using driver who nailed me and put me in the hospital for ten days.

      December 13, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Mike

    Commercial truckers have been talking on the road for many years already, ( it's called a CB) and no government group called for a ban. The roads are more crowded now and obsolete to the influx over the years, sure drivers need to pay attention and can the needless chatter, but letting the government tell us how we go about our daily lives, these guys can't even run the country. Stand up to these inept clowns, this is the USA not the USSR. Balance the budget, we'll take the phone calls!!!!

    December 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike

    put a device in the car (under the hood) that will produce a 'cell phone blocker signal' unless the car is in PARK/Stopped...could be installed at local motor vehicle station at yearly smog time and verified its still working.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      and then disabled the next day by my buddy,heheh

      December 13, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dexter

      Why not pass a law which makes it illegal to talk, listen to the radio or other sound device, read bill boards, eat, drink, smoke, take one or more hands of the wheel. A device could be installed that monitored all of this activity. A policeman could stop you at any time to check the data and see if you had participated in or committed any of these acts. This makes as much sence as the cell phone ban. Talking on a cell phone is no more distracting than talking to your friend, listening to music, or any of the other items mentioned above. This is a knee Jerk reaction by people trying to justify their jobs. I'll bet the NTSB guy that made this suggestion talked on his cell phone a bunch the day he wrote this.

      December 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. kornwholling

    I am actually amazed that this behavior has been allowed for the past 12 or so years without having had stricter regulations put on it. In most countries that have half a brain such as Colombia, SA, you automatically go to jail for using a cellphone when driving. The United States has not only gotten more STUPID over the past 30 years, but more juvenile in its behavioial rationale. This country is bordering on Insanity in the masses with stupid actions it engages in. There is no wonder that soon we will be under the leadership of a county like CHAD or some other sensible place!

    December 13, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dexter

      I wish you wouldn't make things up to try and prove some indifensable point

      December 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
  7. truman

    this would not be taking away our liberties but would be making all our lives safer as we almost have phones that we use while driving. this is reasonable to pass a law to stop all the wrecks that are caused by texting and talking while driving.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dexter

      Should we also ban talking to other passengers in the car. How about banning bill boards they distract drivers. There were wrecks before cell phones only then they blamed driver inattention on the driver not a device.

      December 13, 2011 at 6:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Dexter: according to your stupid logic we shouldn't have stop signs or traffic signals as they are just more liberties big government is taking from us. I remember reading how many citizens back in the early days of cars were up in arms when states started to mandate that lane demarkations had to be painted in the roads. Imagine the horror of Big Government demanding that!

      December 13, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Terry

    Totally ridiculous and unenforceable–especially regarding bluetooth devices. while I have seen a lot of stupid driving by people on cell phones, I have seen as much or more by people NOT on phones. Just another federal agency trying to micromanage peoples lives.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Such an ill-informed comment backed by completely ridiculous (and dangerous) logic.

      December 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    If talking on the phone is the distraction why is it ok if the device is installed in the car?

    December 13, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dexter

    I hear a lot of talk about cell phones, what about GPS and other navigation devices. These devices cause driver the driver to type data requests and to read during driving. The same with CB radios, which truck drivers still use. Also the use of cd players and radios. All of these devices cause driver inattention and the manual input of datat. The Missouri crash report also noted, bad brakes on the buses and sleep deprevation on the passenger truck driver, all of which are deadly on there own. If you are really concerned about driver inattention then you have to go after the whole thing. Otherwise your simply jumping on the anti cell phone bandwagon.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Terry

      After looking over a # of these comments, seems you're about the only person on here that has figured things out correctly.

      December 14, 2011 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
  11. ex

    For years, we've had the technology, the know-how and the resources to put hands-free kits in every car at the cost of mere pennies. Yet auto companies (and cell phone companies) wanted to gouge customers hundreds of dollars for these systems, going so far as to purposefully neuter them. Is it any wonder that every other driver's got a phone up against their head or is tapping away at it in hand? Greedy manufacturers would rather have thousands of distracted driving deaths than offer life-saving features that cost a few cents more to build into their products.

    It's going to take government mandates for automakers and phone companies to step up, just as was required with seat belts and air bags.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  12. T

    . I have experienced distracted drivers, distracted from any number of things. Perhaps we should ban children riding in cars, they are very distracting! STOP!!!! Some people simply do not know how to drive. Sorry, after their ticket for using the cell phone, they will just be more distracted looking for police while on the phone. Can’t legislate common sense.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  13. banasy©

    Excellent post; excellent point.


    December 13, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mike

    So some people think such a law is needless government intrusion into our lives? Well, I'd rather have this law than have some jerk on his or her cellphone plow into my car or into a loved one's car and kill us. I have nearly been hit head-on twice by texting or yakking drivers. And that doesn't count the other bimbos who drifted into my lane at over 70 mph and I had to swerve. Bring on this law, and now!

    December 13, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dexter

      I suppose your okay with GPS and Navigation devices in cars. And if talking on a cell phone is a distraction then talking to a passenger is also and should be banned. The premise that laws make people safe is silly, if it were true then how are people still dying with the hundreds of thousands of laws already on the books. Speeding and Drunk Driving are illegal and how has that worked out for ya. I guess no one's being killed anymore by those illegal activities are they. Laws don't make people safe. Its proven over and over every day.

      December 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Felipe

    No doubt the Teapublicans will scream "Government intervention in our lives!!!" while they call for mandated Christian-only prayer in public schools.

    December 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dexter

      Felipe your comment makes no sense and is not even relevent to this discussion.

      December 13, 2011 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
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