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Texting While Driving? Nationwide Ban on All Cellphone Use in Cars Proposed

The National Transportation Safety Board wants to treat your car like an airplane. Basically, once you buckle up, it's time to shut off all electronic devices.

That's the recommendation of the board today following its review of a summer 2010 Missouri highway crash that killed two and injured 38. The NTSB says it was caused by a pickup driver who was texting and distracted.

Now the federal board wants all of us to ...

... put our phones down, hands-free and Bluetooth-enabled included. The NTSB ...

... called for the first-ever nationwide ban on driver use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) while operating a motor vehicle.

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.

NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman says:

According to NHTSA, more than 3,000 people lost their lives last year in distraction-related accidents. It is time for all of us to stand up for safety by turning off electronic devices when driving.

No call, no text, no update, is worth a human life.

Them's fighting words in L.A.

But even if such a coast-to-coast ban wouldn't be realistic, given our death grip on our smartphones, we kind of the like the idea:

At least it would bring clarity to California's fuzzy no-handsets-to-the-ear, hands-free, no-texting-while-driving laws, which give police way too much power to interpret what's going on and give you tickets that you have to pay without due process.

As it is cops can roll up on you and hand you a $200 bill even if you were looking down at your phone to see who's calling. It's all a matter of interpretation. (But traffic judges who work for the county, which takes a lot of that money, seem to back cops no matter what).

A nationwide ban on cellphone use behind the wheel would, at least, eliminate the guesswork.

However: Forcing a state like California to adopt such a stance would be another matter. It's not like we don't thumb our noses at the feds in other arenas, such as medical marijuana.

If authorities tried to take your iPhones away from you while you drive there would be an uprising greater than Black Friday.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]