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The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending a nationwide ban on phone calls and text messages for people behind the wheels of cars. Many states ban texting or limit cell phone use to hands-free devices, but the proposed changes go far beyond the current laws on the books, citing distracted drivers as one of the leading causes of highway accidents. The ban would also include Bluetooth and hands-free phone setups, unless they were installed in the car by the manufacturer. Passengers would still be allowed to use cell phones.

The NTSB can not implement these rules by themselves, but is pushing for states to pass new, stricter laws in order to curb a problem they say is "epidemic." With 3,092 deaths last year in crashes where distracted driving was a culprit, it seems that its only a matter of time before states begin cracking down on the problem.

Even with new laws, regulators say increased awareness and enforcement is needed to eliminate the problem. One of the cases cited is a 2101 crash in Missouri, in which the 19-year-old driver of a pickup truck sent and received 11 text messages prior to starting a chain reaction car crash that killed himself and two people, even though texting was already illegal for drivers under 21.

At the same time, the FAA seems to be relaxing its rules on electronic devices on airplanes... for some people anyway. Pilots are now allowed to use iPad flight manuals in the cockpit, even though electronic devices are still banned for passengers during takeoffs and landings.

Image by Alen via Shutterstock

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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