MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The National Transportation Safety Board wants every state to ban all cell phones used by drivers — no texting, no talking, not even hands-free. But are cell phones more distracting than any of the other distractions inside our cars?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at any given daylight moment, 13.5 million drivers are on hand-held phones. And the government blames more than 3,000 roadway deaths last year on distracted driving.

Crashes because of cell phones are included in that statistic, but so are crashes because of other issues.

“Eating a hamburger while you’re driving is very distracting, because you’re worried you’re going to spill stuff all over yourself,” said Max Donath, director of the Intelligent Transportations Systems Institute at the University of Minnesota.

Donath said his group did early research that found driving while on a cell phone can be as distracting as driving drunk.

“I believe we do have a crisis and crash statistics point out that there is a problem,” he said.

However, he questions whether a law would actually get people to change their behavior.

“There’s a real problem with: how do we enforce a law?” he said.

When it comes to distracting driving, Donath said the research is all over the place.

While he found cell phone driving to be close to drunk driving, others have found it actually focuses you more on the driving task. Hands-free cell talking can be safer, unless the conversation is highly emotional, at which point it’s dangerous.

Looking down to change the radio station is dangerous, as well as shaving and putting on lipstick, according to Donath..

“The issue really is there are so many more people using their smart phones, there’s so many people who think they can get away with texting,” he said. “It is about exposure. More drivers are exposing themselves to this particular distracting behavior, which is why we’re seeing so many problems.”

Jason DeRusha

Comments (28)
  1. Kelly says:

    Yes they should be a law against using them in cars

    1. dan says:

      You are right Kelly, but dont stop there. No more eating while driving or drinking that hot coffee. Make sure all your makeup is on before you leave the house as well.

  2. JustaThought says:

    Double the punishment if guilty texting and driving and only if they have caused the accident.
    Some of us can talk on a phone and drive with knowing we are driving a half ton vehicle and other safety in mind.

    1. jackactionhero says:

      So if the punishment will be doubled, people will stop texting and driving?

      What makes you think that?

  3. spacecasemn says:

    ban all children , and then ban all spouses, and then ban all other drivers on the road

  4. Eric says:

    I agree texting and using phones should not be used in cars but how is using a hands free device that is intergrated into your car any worse than playing with the radio or talking to another passenger. I think banning hands free devices would be taking it to far.

  5. Jason says:

    I don’t understand why they cannot use the existing law ‘reckless driving’ to address this issue.

    1. Mary says:

      I agree, lawmakers are to quick to make a new law for political impact. The state of Minnesota, per Minnesota Statue 169.13, defines reckless driving as operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that endangers the welfare of other persons or property through a wanton or willful manner.

    2. jackactionhero says:

      The first three words of your comment said it all, Jason.

      And the answer is because using a cell phone while driving doesn’t qualify as reckless.

  6. Bill P says:

    They should design cars so the bodies act as Farraday cages and block radio signals.

    1. jackactionhero says:

      That’s just dumb.

  7. MIKA says:

    The only way to always be safe is to be dead.

    1. Ace says:

      You’re absolutely right. Thanks for the insight. It helps to put things in perspective

  8. AH says:

    I’ve actually been hit two times while I was stopped at a red light. Both times it was parents who were distracted by their kids in the backseats. I don’t think kids should be banned from cars, that would be stupid, but I’m actually curious how much of a distractions kids are and what portion of accidents can be attributed to distracted parents.

  9. barrister says:

    Why is it necessary to be talking on a phone while driving in the first place?

    1. jackactionhero says:

      There are many reasons. If you can’t think of one, how did you find your way here?

  10. slotman86 says:

    And I have been rear ended twice by idiots talking on cell phones

  11. xxx says:

    Why did you even write the article. It doesn’t matter if Cell phones are the MOST distracting.
    It is proven that Cell phones ARE distracting.
    Ban the use of the phones as any other distracting activity in the car.
    As it says in your drivers manual – keep both hands on the rod, and both eyes on the road at all time and avoid distractions – whatever the distractions are.

    So, of course the use of the cell phones – if you are driving – should be banned.
    If you want to use the cell phone, pull over – park the car and go at the phone.

  12. Quiet please says:

    and while we are at it I wish they would ban them on the bus’s, it is so anoying lisening to everyones business and people screaming into their phones like we really want to hear what they are saying.

    1. jackactionhero says:

      You cannot make a word plural by adding an apostrophe and an s.

      Bus’s? Really? How embarrassing for you…

      1. Bill Clintons Cigar says:

        Does it really matter jackmeoff? Really? You must be a govt worker….the new head of the grammer police…..

        1. em0886 says:

          lmao…oh lord….hahaha thanks for the good laugh, you have no idea how bad I needed that!!!!

  13. Kevin says:

    More “Liberal Mamby Pambies” shoving their controll on us all. Soon they will be telling us how many sheets of toilet paper we will use due to “Green” concerns…..MN passed no smoking laws….but we allow EBT cards to buy twinkies….and we are ranked #1 in the Nation for tanning beds…..our education system is ranked 36th in the nation…and yet the levies continue….St Cloud school systems now have 27 different languages spoken……English is now EFL (English Fourth Language) as no one speaks English here anymore. Anyone been to Chicago Ave? Or how about Maplewood Mall? Want to see 3rd world spots….just drive around the cities…its nearly all 3rd world now….but hey I work to pay for them…so keep them coming…and keep making up laws that infringe on my rights….its all good….I hope the liberals understand that when the Nation crashes…which could happen….that all these 3rd world naitons they have set up….will take them over and eat them for lunch…cant wait…

  14. Was there ever a research study on (18) wheelers using there CBs which probably have been taken over by cell
    usage by now and laptops???
    Let’s get everyone that’s out there on the road included in this research including Police Dept, Highway Patrol and I’m sure someone else can add to the list.

  15. Orv Broberg says:

    Cell phones are distracting, but why do we allow auto manufacturers to install GPS and TV screens in the dash. These are certainly distracting to the driver if they are driving alone and even if a passenger is viewing the GPS – the driver will no doubt “sneek” a look at the screen thereby taking his/her eyes off the road.

  16. Jake says:

    When I see cops put down their phones while driving, then maybe I’ll consider doing the same