NTSB Wants To Ban People From Texting Their Own Eulogy

Published 1:45 pm Thursday, October 18, 2012

Of all things.

The National Transportation Safety Board wants to stop people from killing themselves and others by texting or using their cellphones while driving a car.


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What's next? A law against killing people with guns?

If this catches on, it will be illegal to commit armed robbery.

The NTSB has unanimously recommended that all 50 states totally ban texting, emailing or talking on a cellphone while driving. The action came on the heels of a spate of deadly crashes caused by texting drivers, and one incredible episode that saw a teenager send or receive 11 text messages in 11 minutes prior to an accident that created a monstrous pileup of vehicles.

How did the NTSB get its name, anyway? How would keeping a teenager from typing out 11 messages on a tiny keypad that would require most of his attention and motor skills, while driving down the highway at 60 miles an hour, do anything to promote safety?


A recent survey found that two out of ten motorists admitted to texting while driving. Playing Russian Roulette would be safer.

Virginia, of course, banned texting in 2009 but the fines are insignificant and hardly enough to distract anyone from their texting distraction behind the wheel. A twenty-dollar fine is nothing, especially when the odds of being caught seem so slim. Make it $200 for the first offense. Make it $2,000. No joke. Do it.

And in Virginia, motorists must first be pulled over for another offense. Get rid of that requirement too. A bill in the General Assembly this year tried unsuccessfully to make texting a primary offense-meaning that police could pull someone over and write a ticket for texting, plain and simple. But legislators voted it down.

In fact, we should follow the NTSB recommendation to ban cellphone conversations and emailing, too.

Our First Amendment right of free speech does not include the right to kill other people with our cars. Free speech? You cannot put a price on someone's life. Deadly speech isn't the least bit free.

The NTSB's recommendation has been described as “a game-changer” by Jonathan Adkins, a spokesperson for the Governors Highway Safety Association, who added, “States aren't ready to support a total ban yet, but this may start the discussion.”

In the same Associated Press account, NTSB chairman Deborah Hersman admitted the recommendation would be unpopular because, for many people, talking, texting and emailing while driving has become “ingrained behavior.”

And that is precisely why something must done before that behavior becomes ingrained in millions of more Americans, particularly the generation now growing toward the age of 16 and so accustomed to using the new media anywhere and everywhere. Wait to take action when they have become adults and it will be far more difficult to make any meaningful headway.

The NTSB, which has no enforcement powers of its own but is influential on Capitol Hill and among governors, is also very sensibly pleading with states to tenaciously enforce the bans of texting that already exist in 35 states.

Ms. Hersman fully appreciates the significance of what she and her fellow NTSB members are attempting to achieve.

“We're not here to win a popularity contest,” she told the Associated Press, before nailing her statement's dismount. “No email, no text, no update, no call is worth a human life.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Text them to your friends.

Email them to your family.

Call your colleagues, too.

But not while driving gasoline-filled metal projectiles down a highway filled with other people driving gasoline-filled metal projectiles.

In the end, the most effective deterrent to texting while driving is likely to simply do everything you can to stop it. Don't text someone you believe to be driving-during their morning drive to work or school, or their evening drive home, for example. If you are in the car with someone who is texting, ask them to stop, offer to take over the texting for them. And if you text behind the wheel, don't.

Disregard the common sense and regard for human life that fills every syllable of the NTSB's recommendation and you may find your next driving text is your last text.

You may find yourself texting, “The End.”

Rolling your own last credits.

And that is bad enough.

But you may also write the end of someone else.

And that is unforgivable.