NTSB and Electronic Devices: Regulation by Anecdote

by on December 14, 2011 · 2 comments

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended yesterday that states ban all non-emergency use of portable electronic devices while driving, except for devices that assist the driver in driving (such as GPS). The recommendation followed the NTSB’s investigation of a tragic accident in Missouri triggered by a driver who was texting.

Personally I don’t see how someone can pay attention to the road while texting. (I’m having a hard enough time paying attention to a conference presentation while I’m typing this!) But the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation is a classic example of regulatory overreach based on anecdote.  The NTSB wants to use one tired driver’s indefensible and extreme texting (which led to horrific results) as an excuse to ban all use of portable electronic devices while driving – including hands-free phone conversations.  Before states act on this recommendation, they should carefully examine systematic evidence – not just anecdotes — to determine whether different uses of handheld devices pose different risks. They should also consider whether bans on some uses would expose drivers to risks greater than the risk the ban would prevent.

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