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NTSB calls for ban of cell use, Missouri lawmakers say not likely

Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board called upon states to enact laws that would ban the use of cellphones while driving. As an example of the dangers of using a cellphone while driving, federal transportation officials cited a 2010 Missouri car accident in which a teen driver had been sending text messages right before he failed to slow down for construction and crashed into a taxi on a Missouri highway. Two buses full of high school students crashed in the wreck, which injured 38 people and left two dead.

After the incident, a limit on cellphone use when driving was proposed, but was eventually filibustered by state lawmakers. But why?

Thirty-five states currently impose bans on texting while driving, and total of nine states have made it illegal to use a handheld cellphone at all while driving. However, lawmakers say that a total ban on cellphone use would be an unprecedented intrusion into the lives of motorists across the country.

According to the Chairman of the Missouri Senate Transportation Committee, Bill Stouffer, passing a law banning cellphone use could lead legislators down a slippery slope of laws that would inhibit drivers' rights. "Where does it end?" he said. "Why not ban map reading or eating while driving?"

Missouri lawmakers recently proposed to extend a current ban on texting and driving from drivers 21 and younger to all drivers in the state. The legislation never passed, and some say it is because texting and driving is simply too difficult to enforce. Senator Ryan McKenna, who proposed the texting and driving ban after the bus accident, said he will likely propose a ban again, but would not suggest a complete ban on cellphone use.

While some say the suggestion by the NTSB is beneficial in that it underscores the dangers of distracted driving, it seems that many feel it goes farther than is necessary. It will be interesting to see if Missouri legislators decide to tighten laws surrounding driving and cellphone use in the coming years.

Source: Associated Press, "States unlikely to heed NTSB call for cell ban," Jim Salter, Dec. 17, 2011

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