July 24, 2009

Highway Agency Recommended Cell Phone Ban While Driving in 2002

Recently, many studies have suggested that using your cell phone – to chat or text – while driving might be as bad as driving under the influence of alcohol.

It turns out that the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration – the federal agency that oversees transportation – issued a report in 2002 calling for a total ban on all cell phone use by drivers because of the risks involved.

The report was suppressed until recently, when two public interest groups obtained the document under the Freedom of Information Act.

In the report, the NHTSA recommends that "drivers do not use [cell phone] devices when driving, except in an emergency." The NHTSA's data showed that cell phone use by drivers was responsible for 240,000 accidents and 955 deaths nationwide in 2002.

Why was the report never released?

According to The New York Times, the then-head of the NHTSA said he held back from releasing the recommendations because of "larger political considerations," saying that lawmakers might have felt the agency had "crossed the line into lobbying." As a result, The Times reports, the NHTSA feared billions of dollars of federal funding could have been jeopardized.

The Times has the entire NHTSA report for viewing.

[via Yahoo! Tech]

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