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. theyhavehiddenagendas

    In a shorter form, I do feel sorry for all the loved ones lost, but the Feds are just trying to stop facebook and tweets. The media tells fictional news. The American people can talk and watch the truth on the internet. Whats next? Gas chambers and segregation? Gun control is just the next step towards communism. Wake up people!! I know im swimming in a pool of liberal sharks........

    December 14, 2011 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  2. bill

    I agree with the ban on cell phone useage, I've been run off the road many times in the past year. Every time it's been young drivers, and they think it's funny. So far God has taken care of me, no one was hurt, put the ban on and enforce it. Not like some law they don't enforce for everyone's safety.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kathy

    I agree with the NTSB. I drive school bus on one busy 2 lane hwy in Pa. I have people going thru my lights all the time. One woman went around another car on the shoulder of the road and thru my lights talking on the phone. They don't even know how to make a turn talking on the phone.Do something but no slap on the hands. Make it law PLEASE!

    December 14, 2011 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ryan

    I almost want to laugh at some people. You have no rights where operating a vehicle is concerned. Operating a motor vehicle is a PRIVILEGE granted by the state you reside in. Also, I bet there were a bunch of jerks saying it was their right to drive drunk back when the Federal " .08 " laws were passed. My right to life trumps your trivial complaints. Grow the hell up.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:30 am | Report abuse |
  5. TruthHurts

    Yes. Cell phones are dangerous. They are worse than DUI, and they guy eating while driving with his hands, and the girl putting her makeup on while looking in the visor Mirror, and the "gangsta" reloading his CD player so he can shatter my windows with his super bass.

    PLEASE let pick the one problem and then half-tail fix it.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. theyhavehiddenagendas

    I have rights, I served my country in the military. I served to protect my rights, all of them. I also went to college and was smart enough to know the professors (not all) were teaching the ways of hitlers children. I want to laugh at people that enjoy having their freedom taken away by communists.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  7. Tom

    What I find very disturbing is how little attention is being placed on the fact the bus driver should have seen a slow moving or stopped truck. Why was that driver following so close they couldn't stop or the one behind. I am 47 and I was tought that crashes occur due to a chain of events. True the kid on the phone was the trigger but it seems to me there should be emphasis on all the factors. Tailgating following too close are very much to blame for this unfortunate crash, So much so that maybe there would not have been any deaths had there been proper attention and not following too close.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. Chuck

    I agree with the NTSB as well. If our Governent can not make the changes then perhaps our auto dealers can. Put a incomming or outgoing shield around the vehicles that prevent any signals from passing in/out. The word is out, 1 yes its best to have a cell phone at all times in your vehicle in case of an accident. But, What good is that if your dead on site! 2 Not all cell phones have to be active through your carrier, but will still hold any phone contacts available to emergeny crews in case of an accident if kept charged. Let them do their job for you. Be safe, not stupid

    December 14, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. clearmind

    At this stage in the game, no, they cannot be stopped.

    December 14, 2011 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  10. Marjorie Hatcher

    Hey if I am stopped because my mouth is moving and I"m alone, it could be that is one of the many times I am singing along with the radio or CD. Got to remember to tell my daughter who just got a new car with the built in phone not to use it. To think I just purchased that touchless phone thing, wow!
    Geeezzzzzzzz. What's next

    December 14, 2011 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. JBinMN

    I've been waiting for some kind of action like this for a long time. Something obviously needs to be done. In addition to new laws, I wish (and am surprised they haven't already) that insurance companies would incent drivers to not talk on cell phones while driving. Offer lower premiums to drivers who install cell phone signal blocking devices in their cars. Perhaps the technology isn't quite there yet, but hopefully it will be soon and people will have a financial incentive to not endanger other drivers' lives by talking on cell phones.

    December 14, 2011 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  12. jolene

    If you ban cell phones use with hands free why not ban smoking while driving or talking to passengers while driving. People smoking, looking for their cigaretts, light one, losing the cherries from them I believe are just as dangerous if not more dangerous than talking via my hands free device.

    December 14, 2011 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  13. mac chan

    why doesnt the ntsb regulate max speed limits in vehicles? We have a national speed limit of 70mph on almost all of our highways...yet they still allow the production of vehicles that far exceed those limits. Either do away with max speed laws or make the manufacturers build vehicles that adhere to those laws. That would save far more lives than banning cell phone use.

    December 14, 2011 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  14. DELB

    Distracted driving has been illegal in many countries around the world for a very long time... eating, applying make-up, discipling your children, anything that takes your attention off the road. While I have to admit I am guilty of many of these behaviors, I will also confess that when I have lived outside of the country (Germany and Italy) I obeyed these laws. Americans are not disciplined and the thought of our liberties being restricted, minor or serious, will always cause great uproar and protest. I am sure the ACLU lawyers are already on the case! God Bless America!

    December 14, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
  15. Doc Smith

    The simplest, and a good way to raise some revenue is treat them as drunk driver with heafty fine, loss of license, DWT school and probation. This texting is every bit as dangerous and drining and driving.

    December 14, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
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