Regulators Call for National Cell-Phone Ban While Driving
The National Transportation Safety Board voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend a first-ever nationwide ban on the use of cell phones and other personal electronic devices while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 35 states have already banned text messaging by all drivers and nine states now prohibit all hand-held cell phone use while driving.
However, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said now is the time for Americans to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving. "No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life," Hersman said.
For example, the NTSB recently investigated an accident involving two school buses and a pickup truck that occurred in August of last year. Two people died and 38 others suffered injuries because the driver of the pickup truck -- the vehicle that set this pileup in motion -- had been using a cell-phone.
"The driver sent and received 11 text messages in the 11 minutes prior to the accident," Hersman said. "The last text was right before impact."
The U.S. wireless industry association agrees that safety should be every driver's No. 1 priority and that texting while driving is clearly incompatible with safety.
"As far as talking on wireless devices while driving, we defer to state and local lawmakers and their constituents as to what they believe are the most appropriate laws where they live," CTIA-The Wireless Association said Wednesday in a statement.
No Ban In Europe
If the U.S. adopted a nationwide ban it would be moving ahead on a regulatory front that has not yet gained any traction in Europe, where Bluetooth headsets first gained traction and most cars now feature built-in Bluetooth capabilities.
"We have phones starting to have more intelligent voice-activated features such as Siri [so] it seems that usability is getting better rather than worse," noted U.K.-based Gartner Vice President Carolina Milanesi.
"What do you see a lot in the U.K. are ads such as 'Think! Don't text and drive!' " Milanesi said. "I know for some the issue is about concentration, but how is that different from talking to a passenger in the ?"
CTIA noted that new technology-based tools and offerings are continuously being developed that create safer driving environments and are affordable.
"The industry constantly produces new products and services, including those that can disable the driver's mobile device," the CTIA said.
From the business professional perspective, Avaya first began considering the hazards of driving while dialing and talking several years ago when cell phones first started becoming a popular business tool. One of the first things the company did was to enable a call to be made to an enterprise to simultaneously ring the employee's cell phone, noted Avaya spokesperson Deborah Kline.
"That first step took out the need to dial into a voice mail box to check for messages while driving -- something those with long commutes were frequently doing," Kline said Wednesday.
The arrival of Bluetooth headsets made it possible for drivers to keep both hands on the wheel. And not long after, Avaya developed a technology called one-X Speech to enable users to basically do everything their fingers would do on a cell phone but using their voice.
It was "a virtual assistant with speech recognition and text to speech," Kline said. "Think Siri for business -- although we first launched it in 2004. There are a few business communications technologies that keep hands on the wheel and more to come," Kline added.
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