The National Transportation Safety Board made all kind of noise in Washington Tuesday by recommending new and tougher laws that make using mobile phones illegal. The board is calling on all states to make the use of cell phones while driving illegal.
Some 35 states already have laws restricting texting and driving, but most don't go so far as completely banning cell phone use by drivers including Bluetooth hands-free accessories.
There's a hitch, however: most states don't aggressively enforce the laws they have, and most of the laws don't address the real problem.
So people talk. And people text. And, people crash, says the NTSB.
Too many people are texting, talking and driving at the same time, NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said at a hearing in Washington. It's time to put a stop to distraction. No call, no text, no update is worth a human life.
But we already knew that. It was bad enough years ago when people just tried to manage bags of fast food from the drive-thru. That, and backseat drivers and blaring radios. Then along came cell phones, which seemed like a problem, until we got to the real problem -- text messaging and smartphones that put a small computer into the hands of drivers.
They can talk. They can text. They can read email. They can read the newspaper, or a book. But they can't drive very well, as some research has suggested it's as bad if not worse than drunk driving.
And that's saying something.
Yet drivers do it anyway, since most states have barely tackled the problem at all. Truth be told, most of the states that enacted laws wasted a lot of taxpayer time and money, since they focused on texting while driving -- not cell and mobile device use while driving.
Sure, texting while driving is a problem. But reading the book The Help while driving, or searching for new tunes to download can be a bigger problem. Not to mention talking, or dialing, while driving.
The challenge will be getting the new strict regulations recommended by the NTSB into laws. States have taken the matter into their own hands, short of a federal ban, which isn't completely out of the question. Seat belts are mandatory, after all.
But while most states have been willing to address texting while driving in some way or another, there's lingering doubt whether all will jump on board with the strict regulations recommendations.
Already, some are debating the reasonability of including hands-free devices like BlueTooth. Why can't they use their mobile phone if their hands are free and eyes are focused?
That's the kind of debate that could derail this thing. But the line has to be drawn somewhere. Mobile communications devices in the hands of drivers are dangerous. We know that. It's just that the legal and enforcement loop has been far behind.
That's nothing new, however.