The National Safety Council has called for a national ban on making phone calls while driving. Even "hands free" sets pose too much of a risk for drivers, it says, since calling while driving increases the chance of crashes fourfold.
“When our friends have been drinking, we take the car keys away," says Janet Froetscher, head of the NSC. "It’s time to take the cell phone away.”
Six states already have outlawed the use of handheld phones behind the wheel, and 17 banned cell phone use by new drivers. None have gone so far as to ban hands-free calls, but the NSC argues that such calls are just as distracting. Reuters reports that:
Such reports have done little to curb cell phone use in cars: 80 percent of drivers admit to chatting while driving, according to a May survey from National Insurance. And a Consumer Reports poll found that 13 percent text while driving.
"Public awareness and the laws haven't caught up with what the scientists are telling us," Froetscher says. "There is no dispute that driving while talking on your cellphone, or texting while driving, is dangerous.... It's not just what you're doing with your hands -- it's that your head is in the conversation and so your eyes are not on the road."
A complete ban seems like overkill to John Walls, vice president of CTIA, the main cell-phone trade group. He told the Associated Press that states should trust drivers to make quick and careful calls.