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NTSB: Americans must ditch phones while driving, P.2

In our previous post, we began discussing a recent meeting of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to discuss the issue of cell phone use while operating vehicles.

The meeting was called specifically to discuss a crash between a barge and a duck boat last July-the tug pilot had been using a cell phone and a computer while behind the wheel-but the agency broadened the discussion out to the pervasive problem of cell phone use by drivers.

According to sources, there is currently a federal criminal investigation going on over the accident. The tug pilot apparently faces involuntary manslaughter charges, and is not cooperating with the NTSB investigation. The NTSB investigators said at the meeting that the captain of the duck boat failed to notify his passengers to put life jackets on and that he failed to contact the Coast Guard immediately. Investigators said that, while both companies involved in the crash had solid safety cultures, they didn't have prefect employee compliance records.

Sources said that drug and alcohol tests on each boat's crew came back negative. Among the legal ramifications of the crash are wrongful death suits filed by the families of the two students who drowned in the accident.

Some of the discussion at last Tuesday's meeting revolved around the need to change the culture of cell phone use. According to NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, "Distraction is becoming the new DUI. This is going to reach epidemic proportions. It takes a generation or two to change it, but change is needed."

Source: AP, "NTSB: Culture of driving with phones must change," Mary Claire Dale, 21 June 2011.

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