Board urges cell-driving ban, NTSB: Measure would prohibit phone use by young drivers
Wednesday, June 4, 2003
By Jeff Plungis and Charlie Cain / The Detroit News
WASHINGTON -- States should adopt laws to prohibit cell-phone use by young drivers and the federal government should consider mandating an anti-rollover safety system in all passenger vehicles, U.S. safety officials said Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board made the recommendations after an exhaustive investigation into a violent 2002 crash involving an SUV and minivan that killed five people on the Beltway outside Washington.
The 20-year-old driver of a 1990 Ford Explorer lost control of her SUV while talking on a cell phone. The driver died after the SUV crossed over a highway median and rolled over, landing on top of a minivan. Four people in the minivan were killed.
NTSB chairman Ellen Engleman said there was too little data to cite cell-phone use as the primary cause of the Maryland crash, and said more research is needed before the agency would recommend banning cell phone use by motor vehicle drivers.
But with 145 million cell phones in use and 70 percent of all motorists owning cell phones, Engleman said she was concerned about the potential impact on highway safety.
But with 145 million cell phones in use and 70 percent of all motorists owning cell phones, Engleman said she was concerned about the potential impact on highway safety. "It's definitely a distraction for drivers," Engleman said of cell-phone use. "Education will be key to helping people understand they can be dangerous if improperly used."
Investigators said cell phone use, the driver's inexperience, excess speed and severe wind gusts combined to cause the Beltway crash. The NTSB said an electronic stability control system, such as the one available on the Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicle and other new SUVs, might have prevented the crash. Stability control systems use sensors to detect when a wheel has left a driving surface or a driver is about to lose control of a vehicle. Computers automatically apply brakes to adjust wheel speed and steering to keep the vehicle on the road.
The board urged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine whether cars and trucks equipped with the anti-rollover technology are involved in fewer crashes. NHTSA should mandate electronic stability control for all passenger cars and light trucks if the data proves favorable, the board said. Last year, the agency recommended automakers install electronic stability control on large, 15-passenger vans which are prone to roll over during sharp maneuvers when fully loaded.
Because inexperienced drivers are more likely to be involved in highway crashes, the board said states should ban young drivers from using cell phones. Maine and New Jersey are the only states that have adopted such laws. New York banned all hand-held cell-phones in cars.
Sen. Jud Gilbert, an Algonac Republican who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, said he would look at the board's suggestion. But Gilbert said cell phone use is just one of the many distractions faced by drivers.
"I always found it hard to make the argument that cell phones were worse than eating a McDonald's hamburger or drinking a Coke," he said.
States crack down
Where some states stand on cell phone use among drivers:
New York: Ban on hand-held cell phones for all drivers.
Maine, New Jersey: Ban on cell phones for teen drivers.
New Hampshire: Comprehensive driver distraction law.
Connecticut: Ban on cell phone use by school bus drivers.
Michigan and 15 other states: Collecting data on cell phones' impact on highway safety.
Sources: Governors Highway Safety Association, MultiState Associates
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....