Yesterday afternoon the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended a full ban on cell phone use while driving. The NTSB’s recommendations included calls for banning texting while driving as well as the use of hands-free devices, such as Bluetooth headsets. While many drivers are aware of the dangers of texting and driving, the provision to ban use of hands-free devices is generating the most buzz and controversy and could have a significant impact in this sector of the consumer electronics industry.
Some studies have claimed that texting while driving impairs drivers equally to driving while drunk. The rapid growth of smartphones and their attention-capturing apps is poised to make distracted driving via cell phones an even bigger problem. “This (distracted driving) is becoming the new DUI. It’s becoming epidemic,” said NTSB member Robert Sumwalt. Last year in Missouri, a major vehicle accident was determined to have been caused by a driver using his cell phone for texting. Two people, including the driver, were killed, and 38 others were injured.
While almost no one would argue against a ban on texting while driving, the NTSB’s recommendation to ban use of hands-free devices is being met by resistance. Some claim that using a hands-free Bluetooth device is no different from talking to another passenger in a vehicle. While no official statement has been made on behalf of hands-free device manufacturers and retailers, it would not surprise me to see to one being released in the near future considering that hands-free devices are top sellers and are used extensively by people in the business community.