NTSB calls for state ban on iPhones and other smartphones in cars

NTSB calls for state ban on iPhones and other smartphones in cars

The National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB] has recommended that the American states prohibit any and all non-emergency use of smartphones in automobiles. That's right, they want you to keep your hands and eyes off your iPhone and on the wheel and road. While that might make some superficial sense, it also ignores how multifaceted modern smartphones truly are -- for example, running a GPS turn-by-turn sat nav app, or playing music, the same functionality built into a lot of modern vehicles.

The safety recommendation specifically calls for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers. The safety recommendation also urges use of the NHTSA model of high-visibility enforcement to support these bans and implementation of targeted communication campaigns to inform motorists of the new law and heightened enforcement.

The trouble is, smartphones can run software designed to support driving tasks, but they can also run highly distracting software like SMS/IM or Angry Birds.

And, of course, it does nothing to deal with other driver distractions like food, makeup, reading papers while driving, etc. etc. (Sadly it's very touch to draft a "don't be dumb and drive law", so they fall for easy-to-identify blanket bans.)

We're co-opting our sibling site, Android Central's poll on this one, so add your vote above and sound off on what you think below!

Source: NTSB via AP via Android Central

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

NTSB calls for state ban on iPhones and other smartphones in cars


Banning them across the board is ridiculous. You'd have to ban every new car on the market as they have the same functionality built in. In most cases with bigger screens.
No, this is a bad idea. Fortunately, it won't pass.

Cars with built in systems are engineered to be used while driving. Hence the buttons on the console are large and require minimal input. On of that a car manufacturer can program their built in features to disable input when the car is in motion as many already do; I cannot use the GPS in my car while in motion as it locks me out.

You certainly can use GPS while the car is in motion, you just can't program in a new destination. What good would GPS be if you couldn't use it while the car was in motion?

nobody plays Angry Birds while they're driving and if they DO, that's exactly how they're going to die someday. The solution is within the problem. Legislation is unnecessary.

Ban them, the whole lot of them. Many states already do. Using a handset in my state for any reason just became a primary offense a month ago. Although I doubt it will get much enforcement because I see police officers riding around with their phones up to their ears all the time.

Do they ban CB radios for truck drivers too? According to this logic they should because it is just as big of a distraction as it is to talk on a cell phone.
They should also ban billboards too because those are designed to take the drivers eyes off the road. This whole concept of lets ban something is ridiculous, how about put some thought and work into and do it right instead of taking the lazy mans approach.

Dont ban them... NTSB are a bunch of idiots... i use my iPhone for GPS and music in my car with of course bluetooth.... its safe... they probably just have "dumb" phones and dont understand....

Maybe they should just save us all the trouble and make our cars illegal. After all, that's the part of this equation that truly causes the harm.

What's more dangerous, skipping to the next track in a playlist on a smartphone that you can drop without consequence if you need to, or having a three inch stick that is on fire in your hand that could burn you and/or set your car on fire if dropped?
Smoking while driving needs to be banned well in advance of smartphones.

The NTSB actually suggested to "Ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers".
Not just "smartphones".
I get frustrated by "tricky" and "clever" news article titles that feel misleading. Maybe that's just me.

How would you ever enforce it? I agree that talking/texting while driving is distracting, but this is yet another ploy by the government to control our lives, sneakily disguised as a public safety issue. We, as smartphone/cellphone users, are ultimately the ones responsible for our actions. When in this country did personal responsibility take a backseat to the progressive socialist movement? This is sheer tomfoolery.

When you have an accident because your smartphone distracted you that half a second necessary to break earlier and you kill someone you are responsible for it too.
This is a serious matter and your actions are not taking into account the safety of everyone. You would not like to die or get seriously injured because someone was texting his wife on his way home and reacted late.
Thankfully in Europe these laws are generally implemented and there is consciousness about how distractions affect driving. I am sure it won't take long in the US to be generally accepted

Uhhh, how about they try enforcing the current laws? Or is that too wild for an agency (any government entity), whose business is...making up new rules? if the police ticketed those on cell phones here in WA where it is illegal, revenue would, at least temporarily shoot up. But alas, enforcement is not the point. Getting more donations from the carriers is.

You forgot to state an important exemption. If used in a handsfree mode the proposal would exempt the user. Bluetooth anyone??

If theyll provide everyone with a pioneer Double din indash with gps and iPhone compatibility thn we might negotiate. Other than that. Eating and reading and smoking is also as dangerous

I think we should make a law that allows only the use of self-automated cars by 2012... We shouldn't have to drive anywhere. Then we can be mindless drones and update our Facebook status in the car while it drives and we can sip on a cocktail till we reach our destination... NTSB (another government agency that needs to go..... right behind TSA)

Sad but one day it probably will be that way. All of those that actually enjoy driving will be thrown in jail for switching to manual mode. AGGGG!!! I thought, stability control, drive by wire, ABS, Automatic tranys, ect, ect. were bad enough.

Simple answers to complex problems always ends up with the wrong thing being banned, and similar and worse technologies and activities doing just as much damage.
Enforce the non-hands-free use of phones first. Get to enforcing that and the rest becomes unnecessary legislation as valid as needing to walk in front of all cars entering the city to avoid scaring the horses.

This also fails to point out the inordinate amount of technology in POLICE CARS. They have laptops, iPads and other technologies that are equally, and sometimes more distracting than what is in your normal Joe's car.
They aren't using bluetooth. There isn't a speakerphone. They don't use Dragon Naturally Speaking as they drive. They drive and TYPE ON A FRIGGIN LAPTOP.
Go fix that crap before you tell me to put my iPhone down.

Haven't you realized what type of country you're in yet? It's a "Do as I say, don't do as I do" place.

You mean to tell me that I can't use Siri to initiate a call, play music, send a text etc.???
Are you or the NTSB going to pay to have fm transmitters installed into vehicles? Who would even use one of those given the alternatives that offer superior sound?
You mean to tell me that I paid extra for a Bose system in my car with an iPod dock to be DEGRADED to fm transmitters?
What kind of phone do you use? This answer would have been relevant 5 years ago, but not now.

We have had a ban in the UK for a while but sadly not everyone complies.
Cannot believe anyone would vote for anything other than a complete ban.

You people are all ignorant. To use the logic of most of you we should legalize drinking and driving. I could explain that to you but obviously it wouldn't make sense..

And TiPB's resident smartass chimes in with the usual unintelligent comment. Try something constructive like.....chopping off the tips of your fingers.

There is a reason there are safety guards and machinery. "Do not eat" labels on moisture packs. "Do not park on tracks" signs at railroad crossings. The list goes on and on. All those things are needed for stupid people. If you can't figure those things out on your own then you should be deemed to stupid to even use it. Stupid people forget they are driving and turn ALL their attention to their texting or phone call. They ending up killing themselves or others. If it wasn't for the stupid we could live happily using our devices without warnings but alas it's not meant to be..

They can pull an Alaskan compromise. Here they banned texting and any kind of headset or ear piece but allow you to talk on the phone held up to your ear while driving...

I do find it incredibly distracting when I'm catching up on The Office on Hulu and the road is curvy with lots of stop signs. NTSB should concentrate on straightening the roads and reducing the amount of annoying intersections.

I'm not sure this law would ever pass. The new cars that are being made have computers inside the dash. There are 2012 cars that have the ability to update your Facebook, and Twitter pages, built in GPS, etc... All these things require pressing the in-dash screen to accomplish the task. That can be just as distracting. Smoking, eating, and drinking is also distracting. Sometimes just having the kids in the car can be as distracting, or changing the playlist on your phone, or in dash iPod. Turning on the AC or heat on or off, or changing the radio station, or changing the song playing can be just as distracting. While I understand what the goal is, there will never truly be a way to limit distractions simply because of all the options in the cars (heat, AC, radio station, etc..).

I'll give you my smartphone when you pry it from my cold dead, hands - and NOT as a result of my using it on the road and killing myself.
Smartphones don't kill people. Stupid people using smartphone while they drive kills people.
If police officers can be trained to drive at high speeds using a computer and two-way radio without killing people, so can everyone else.

Absolutely ridiculous - I'm so sick of an all or nothing rule in this country.
There are bluetooth headsets, Voice Controls in almost EVERY phone out there... (Text Joe - I'll be late.) There are speedometer apps, GPS apps and so many other driving tools on smartphones. All to make it safer to use than most phones. If you're going to band smartphones - ban food, makeup, conversation with your passenger, looking at sites as you pass them, turning on the radio, heater or lights.
Ridiculous - Seriously.

If you have a true hands free means of communication, that should not be banned. Doing so is like saying one cannot speak to a passenger in the automobile - silly. But, it must be a true hands free device. This usually means a telephone module built into the automobile and uses a SIM Card of its own or and true Bluetooth device that allows hands free operation like changing the station on a normal car stereo. These are acceptable means of hands free in most Western civilizations so why not here at home. We need to better utilize the TECH that is available and hold 'people' accountable.

Here's a crazy idea -- no laws limiting the nebulous category of distracted driving, and let the people who have caused accidents because of distraction pay for their damage, just like other people who cause accidents. Seems like the system handles this already.

Unless it's an electronically enforced ban (i.e. disables the phone when the car is in motion) then it's not going to work. Weed is illegal but does that stop people from smoking it?

I think the ear piece thing was targeting bicycles and ended up including cars as well...
As for using the phone, I don't know they shot it down when it came up for vote in the legislature.

Hey Big Government, STAY THE F*** OUT OF MY LIFE. Just another fund raising campaign, like seatbelt laws and speed traps.

So basically what you're telling me, NTSB, is that you plan on having the police stop more than 95% of "traffic violators" because they were listening to the latest Black Eyed Peas track. While you're at it, patrol people at their jobs for having too many "distractions", schools, churches, oh and even your employees that are sure to be doing the same thing.
Case in point, distractions are going to happen regardless of what ban you place.

Didnt some time ago it was marketed as a car phone ane when did the meaning mobile phone became use in the privacy of your own home.

They simply need to make you use Bluetooth or a wired handset, for call; texting while driving is already illegal in most states. If you can't use Bluetooth or a wired handset, then maybe you are too stupid to drive a car.
The best phone thing I ever bought was a windshield phone holder. I navigate, reply to texts, Facebook messages and emails with my voice, as it stays mounted to the holder. Even before Siri, I was able to talk to my phone with Voice Command.
As I was telling my wife this morning, we had mobile phones in the US long before anybody sent text messages. Reduce texting, and just call me on the damm phone. Use your voice!

If you want to go this route, ban anything that takes the drivers concentration away from the road. Radios, CD players, other people in the car, roadside advertising.....
The list goes on.

Wondering if anyone read the source articles. From the NTSB site:
"The safety recommendation specifically calls for the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices (other than those designed to support the driving task) for all drivers."
Sooo, using PEDs (smartphones) for GPS would be acceptable.

Screw the NTSB, I use my phone for GPS functions if I want to. They're not going to get in bed with all the large manufacturers of GPS quipped cars, etc. just to force the public into buying a vehicle with those functions as options while prohibiting me from using my own device that I want. If I want to spend money on a device that is a cellphone, GPS, entertainment platform and use it as a multitasker for various facets of my life, I AM FREE TO DO SO. Anything else and it should be argued against. This country is going to shit quickly and stupid people voting for "middle ground" and "yes" above in the poll are to blame for it all!!!

People like you amaze me. Hands free and not, the distraction is still there. Just recently, I saw tests conducted one a person who was talking hands free on a phone and was asked to navigate an obsticle course while being asked various questions and guess what? They couldn't do it while they were talking "hands free" as you put it. The distraction comes from the fact that your brain can't do two things as once. Very few VERY... have the ability to do multiple things as once. Everyone else are actually unitaskers who quickly switch from one thing to another and that's what actually makes you think you can multitask.... you can't. The brain wasn't wired like that. What you're doing is concentrating on the conversation you're having and auto-driving. When an emergency happens, you flip over to the driving part quickly (if it's quick enough) and you immediately stop listening to what your call was about.
That's how it works people... the argument about handsfree or not has to do with taking your eyes off the road and since that can happen for anything that can go on in the car (picking up your cup of whatever, looking at something else in the mirrors, etc.) this ban is invalid because it doesn't depict that it's the "looking elseware" that's the problem. People put in charge of issues like this are idiots and don't see it as that, no matter how logical the viewpoints and studies are. Almost all the people in charge of making these changes aren't even aware that the human mind cannot multitask in the general sense of the term. It's a scientific fact and these people don't even know it. Not knowing such facts is what causes stupid rules and laws to be put into place.

It won't matter if they ban it or not, people will still use their cell phones while they drive. I live in Connecticut and they already have something exactly like this, if a cop catches you talking, texting or fiddling with your phone, they will pull you over and give you a ticket.

If it's a blanket ban, which includes hands-free, what's next? You can't talk to anyone that's in the car either??? What's the difference?

We all know that using GPS in vehicles is dangerous when we're not keeping our eyes on the road. If we use a Vehicle Cell Phone Holder, the problem will be drastically reduced.