The United States is interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is our federal system in which some issues are decided at the national level while others are determined by individual states. When it comes to cell phone usage by drivers, states have generally taken the lead in decision-making, with some of them banning talking for all drivers unless a hands-free device is used, while others have required younger drivers to avoid cell phone usage while behind the wheel. Other states have remained mute on the issue, which would mean it remains legal to talk-and-drive or text-and-drive.
This week, however, the federal government weighed in on the issue. Not in the form of legislation, true. Still, the National Safety Transportation Board, better known as the NTSB, issued an advisory to the states on the use of cell phones while driving. Not too surprisingly, the verdict on the issue was negative. The position of the NTSB is that while texting during driving is an obviously bad idea since it takes drivers’ eyes off the road, talking on a cell phone is also very dangerous since it distracts attention from the important task of driving.
The position of the NTSB is understandable, certainly, but it is also a bit ironic. The cell phone as it exists today got its start in the first place as a car phone. However, those, of course, were often in the back seat for the use of executives who had drivers.
It remains to be seen how the states will react to NTSB’s position.