Nightly News | December 13, 2011
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Tonight an agency of the federal government has decided that texting, emailing or talking on a cellphone while driving a car is simply too dangerous and should be outlawed in this country. All of it by all of us. This comes from the National Transportation Safety Board , the NTSB , the very serious folks who investigate airline crashes among other things; and their advice is likely to carry a lot of weight. They've determined too many people are dying because of distracted driving and they want it outlawed. Of course, here's what they're up against, the millions of us who drive distracted on occasion, especially those of us who think we're fine, it's the other drivers who present the greatest danger on the road. Well, it's about to become a bigger issue than it already is. We begin tonight with NBC 's Tom Costello in Washington . Tom , good evening.
TOM COSTELLO reporting: Hi, Brian. The government says at any given moment, one out of 100 drivers you pass on the road is texting while driving. The NTSB calls it an epidemic, says too many people, thousands of people are dying, and it has to end. Investigators say this fatal chain reaction crash involving two school buses in Gray Summit , Missouri , last year was caused by a 19-year-old pickup driver texting while driving; 11 texts in 11 minutes. Today, after years of similar reports, the NTSB said it's heard enough.
Ms. DEBORAH HERSMAN (National Transportation Safety Board Chairman): No one can drive safely when they're distracted .
COSTELLO: Today the safety board called on all 50 states and DC to ban the use of all portable electronic devices for all drivers. An exception would only be made for emergencies and GPS units, but not hands-free devices. At the moment, 35 states ban texting while driving. Ten and DC ban handheld devices . But no states have the kind of total ban the NTSB wants.
Mr. ROBERT SUMWALT (National Transportation Safety Board Board Member): We need to stand up and say this is not acceptable behavior.
COSTELLO: Under a new refined reporting system, the government says there were 3,092 fatalities as a result of distracted driving in 2010 . Meanwhile, roughly 20 percent of all drivers and 50 percent of drivers between 21 and 24 years of age admit to having texted while driving.
Unidentified Woman #1: She was looking at my message that I had just sent her. She was actually ejected through the driver's side door.
COSTELLO: Public service campaigns like this one launched by AT&T have tried to drive home the dangers of distracted driving.
Woman #1: Four little letters, that's what killed her.
Unidentified Man #1: I sent one, stupid, meaningless text, "lol," and killed a man.
COSTELLO: Today the wireless industry declined to comment on any potential ban, instead calling for new products and services, including those that can disable the driver's mobile device . In Los Angeles , mixed reaction.
Unidentified Woman #2: A complete ban of any cell phone use in your car, I don't think I would support that.
Unidentified Man #2: I could live without it. I lived without it for 30 years, why not now?
Ms. HERSMAN: We know that this recommendation is going to be very unpopular with some people, but we're not here to win a popularity contest.
COSTELLO: The NTSB says hands-free devices are covered because it believes that distracted drivers who are talking on a hands-free device are still distracted and are, in fact, leading to terrible crashes. Now a total ban may seem unlikely at this point, however you may see -- you might see insurance companies and corporations decide that they're going to enact their own rules that would apply to employees and maybe even policyholders. So this does have some real possibility going forward. Brian :
WILLIAMS: We're going to hear a lot more about this. And, Tom , you be careful out there. Tom Costello tonight in Washington .