The National Transportation Safety Board declared Tuesday that texting, emailing or chatting while driving is simply too dangerous to be allowed anywhere in the United States.
The board is urging all states to impose total bans except for emergencies following recent deadly crashes, including one in Missouri after a teenager sent or received 11 text messages within 11 minutes.
The unanimous recommendation from the five-member board would apply even to hands-free devices, a much stricter rule than any current state law.
NTSB chairwoman Deborah Hersman acknowledged that complying would involve changing what has become ingrained behavior for many Americans.
"We're not here to win a popularity contest," she said. "No email, no text, no update, no call is worth a human life."
Currently, 35 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving, while nine states and Washington, D.C., bar hand-held cellphone use. Thirty states ban all cellphone use for beginning drivers. But enforcement is generally not a high priority, and no states ban the use of hands-free devices for all drivers.
The immediate impetus for the NTSB's recommendation was last year's deadly pileup near Gray Summit, Mo., involving a 19-year-old pickup driver.
The board said the initial collision was caused by the teen's inattention while texting a friend about events of the previous night. The pickup, traveling 55 mph, hit the back of a tractor truck that had slowed for highway construction. The pickup was rear-ended by a school bus, and a second school bus rammed into the back of the first bus.
The pickup driver and a 15-year-old student on one of the buses were killed. Thirty-eight other people were injured.
In Missouri, texting is illegal for drivers 21 and under, which means the law would have applied to the 19-year-old. But the ban isn't aggressively enforced, NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said.
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Source: Associated Pres