The independent NTSB has neither the legislative muscle of Congress nor the regulatory power of the White House, but as the nation’s leading federal safety advocate its recommendations carry weight in both places. Its recommendations also provide political cover if Congress or the administration wants to take on the powerful cellphone industry lobby and an American public addicted to cellphones and other forms of electronic communication.Streetsblog notes that Missouri already had a state ban on texting while driving at the time of the deadly crash, and that despite state bans and awareness campaigns reports of texting while driving are up 50% over the past year. A recent Washington Post survey found that 88 percent of drivers recognized the dangers of using electronic devices while driving, but a third did so anyway.
It would be up to state legislatures, which already have banned text messaging while driving in 35 states and the District, to decide whether cellphone use should be illegal. But in the past, Congress has not been shy about leveraging its control of the federal purse strings to bring states in line on issues such as seat belts and the legal drinking age.
“The NTSB recommendation may be a game-changer,” said Jonathan Adkins, spokesman for the Governors Highway Safety Association. “States aren’t ready to support a total ban yet, but this may start the discussion.”
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