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Federal agency wants states to ban using cell phones while driving

Here on The Miami Herald’s Travel desk, I get about a dozen press releases a week about new travel-related apps for our smart phones. We can map out a new route for our road trips, check on the availability of hotel rooms, read restaurant reviews, see what activities our friends recommend or buy tickets to a museum or theme park – all while we’re on the road.

One would hope that the driver would pull off the road or has a navigator in the passenger seat to do these tasks, but as anyone who has gotten next to a car that slows and weaves between lanes knows, too often the driver is paying more attention to the phone than to the road. Or having a phone conversation. I have Bluetooth in my car, and long stretches of uncrowded highway call to me to catch up with friends and family.

The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that we’re simply playing with our phones while we’re behind the wheel too much. The NTSB is urging states to ban all  texting, emailing or chatting while driving. The recommended rules would apply even to hands-free devices and are stricter than any state’s existing regulations.

The Associated Press reports that 35 states and the District of Columbia ban texting while driving, while nine states and Washington, D.C., bar hand-held cellphone use. Thirty states ban all cellphone use for beginning drivers. No states ban the use of hands-free devices for all drivers.

About two out of 10 American drivers overall — and half of drivers between 21 and 24 — say they've thumbed messages or emailed from the driver's seat, according to a survey of more than 6,000 drivers by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,  AP says.

It will be up to each state to decide whether to adopt the NTSB’s proposed restrictions

To read more about the proposal, click here.