That's the National Transportation Safety Board - and no, it has no enforcement power. It can only make recommendations involving safety rules and regulations - as with plane crashes and rail derailments. At a press conference today, NTSB officials will recommend a nationwide ban on the use of personal electronic devices while driving. That includes cell phones. There's virtually no chance that the recommendation will get through Congress - and even if it ever did, policing such a ban would be extremely hard (consider how many California drivers violate state restrictions on cell phone use). From the Washington Post:
The NTSB has been investigating a deadly crash in Gray Summit, Missouri last year. A 19-year-old pickup driver sent 11 texts in the 11 minutes before before the accident, according to the NTSB, including one "right before impact." The board is meeting Tuesday at its Washington headquarters on that accident, which Hersman said killed two people and injured 38. "We will never know whether the driver was typing, reaching for the phone, or reading a text when his pickup ran into the truck in front of him without warning,"Herman said in her opening statement. "But, we do know he had been distracted -- cognitively, manually, and visually -- while driving. Driving was not his only priority."
Distracted driving is responsible for one in every 11 U.S. traffic deaths, according to a government agency, as states struggle to find effective deterrents despite the rising use of cell phones. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's annual study found 3,092 people died in 2010 from distraction-related crashes, totaling about 9 percent of traffic-related fatalities. The report also discovered activities like texting and talking while driving spiked by more than half over last year.
What's interesting about these numbers is that the overall rate of traffic deaths has fallen to their lowest level since 1949, largely the result of safer vehicles and roads. Texting-related traffic deaths are horrific, but apparently there aren't enough of them to alter the overall trendline.