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CTIA Responds to Proposed National Ban On Using Phones While Driving

The wireless industry's largest trade group has come out in favor of the National Transportation Safety Board's recently released proposal calling for a national ban on using electronic devices while driving, but it doesn't support every part of the plan.

Washington, D.C.-based CTIA issued a statement shortly after the NTSB's proposal was announced, saying the group, supports a ban on "manual texting" while driving, but would defer to state and local lawmakers when it comes to talking on wireless devices while driving.

In its proposal, the NTSB is seeking a "nationwide ban on driver use of personal electronic devices (PEDs) while operating a motor vehicle." The agency's proposal follows an investigation into an August 2010 accident that resulted in the deaths of two people and 38 being injured.

The cause of the accident, the NTSB said, was a distracted driver who was actively texting prior to the crash.

In a report filed in support of the ban, the NTSB cited NTHSA figures indicating that more than 3,000 people died in the past year as a result of distracted driving. The percentage of those individuals that were using cellphones was not listed. According to the NTSB report, a Virginia Tech Transportation Institution study found that commercial drivers were 163 times more likely to be involved in a "safety-critical" event if they were texting, sending email, or accessing the web while driving.

"The wireless industry remains focused on educating consumers about their responsibilities when they’re driving, especially inexperienced drivers," CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent said in a release. "We’re proud of our partnership with the National Safety Council that focuses on teens and novice drivers that tells them ‘On the Road, Off the Phone.’ As part of the partnership, we developed a TV and two radio public service announcements (PSAs) that have been viewed and heard by millions."

In addition to the ban, the NTSB also called on CTIA and the Consumer Eletronics Association to develop "technology features that disable the functions of portable electronic devices within reach of the driver when a vehicle is in motion." Those features, the agency said, should also allow for the emergency use of devices while the vehicle is in motion and "have the capability of identifying occupant seating position so as not to interfere with use of the device by passengers."

For his part, Largent said, CTIA "has always encouraged the industry to continue to develop new technology-based tools and offerings that are affordable and consumer-friendly that would create safer driving. We remain dedicated to educating all consumers to ensure when they are behind the wheel, safety is their top priority"