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NTSB wants ban on all cellphone use in cars

December 13, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The National Transportation Safety Board calls cellphone use of any kind behind the wheel the new DUI and an epidemic.

Investigators are seeing more accidents involving distracted drivers who were talking or texting, resulting in 3,000 deaths last year.

The five-member board is recommending all 50 states, and the District of Columbia, ban all non-emergency use of electronic devices for drivers. GPS systems would be the exception.

"If we don't act now, how many lives will we lose in the next 30 years?" said board member Robert Sumwait.

California is one of 35 states to ban texting while driving and one of nine to ban handheld cellphone use by drivers. But the NTSB board is also recommending a ban on hands-free cellphone use, currently allowed in California.

Some California drivers are in agreement with the recommendation.

"I definitely agree that nobody should be driving and answering the phone or texting, or minding their phone," said Alicia Lorenzi of North Hollywood.

Lorenzi's 19-year-old daughter can't imagine having to hang up and drive.

"I feel empty when I don't have my cellphone with me," she said. "It's very addictive. So I think it's going to be hard, nationwide, to ban all cellphone use in the car."

The NTSB realizes younger generations would have a hard time adapting to a total cellphone ban, but board members say states could make the changes that would save lives.

"It takes education, it takes laws, and it takes strong enforcement of those laws," Sumwait said.

The NTSB does not have the authority to change the laws, but state lawmakers may take the NTSB's recommendations into consideration.

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