NTSB: Drive Now, Talk Later

The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending a total ban on not just texting, but also talking while driving. Bravo - it’s about time.

In a move that has taken a stunningly long time, the National Transportation Safety Board [http://www.ntsb.gov] today recommended a total ban on talking on the phone while operating a motor vehicle. This would apply not just to hands-free devices, but to any talking or texting - and, presumably Web surfing, watching videos, or anything else (with one small exception for driving-specific activities, like navigation) that today's handsets and cellular networks can do. I absolutely and wholeheartedly support such a ban and I've written extensively on this in these pages before. Study after study has shown that most people's brains are simply not wired to allow this kind of multitasking, and our first duty when behind the wheel must be to safe operation of the vehicle, not yakking with mom, updating one's Facebook status following the big breakup, closing the big deal, or searching for that perfect recipe for Yorkshire pudding. In short, like the bumper sticker says, drive now, talk later.

Look, we've heard all of the counterarguments to the very reasonable position taken by the NTSB, ranging from the Libertarian to the selfish. I know, I know, we're all so busy, and the wireless handset (let's not forget that expensive Bluetooth option you got in your latest car) is so convenient. And I deeply appreciate all of these arguments, at least at some level. But let me be blunt: people are getting killed because certain operators of motor vehicles think their brains can do something that those brains cannot. Enough, already! Hang up and drive! Or, conversely, turn off the engine and yak all you want.

Really, there are absolutely no good arguments to the contrary (although, if you disagree, please feel free to comment here), so let's hope this recommendation gets implemented as soon as possible. Note, again, that word recommendation - the NTSB can't implement this ban; such requires legislation. Given all the challenges I expect on this issue, that soon would, of course, be never - but let's hope that reasonable minds end up triumphing here. Your life, or the life of a loved one, or even the life of that person who thinks his or her brain is special, may depend upon it.

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