The National Transportation Safety Board voted 5-0 to recommend that states ban all driver use of cell phones and other portable electronic device while driving except for emergencies.
The recommendation applies to both hands-free and hand-held phones, going well beyond existing state laws.
The recommendation came in connection with an NTSB investigation into a highway pileup in Missouri last year in which two people were killed and 38 others were injured. The multi-part accident involved two school buses, a GMC pick-up truck and a truck-tractor with no trailer. The Board found that the driver of the GMC pick-up truck, who was killed in the accident, was likely texting while driving.
"Manufacturers and providers of portable electronic devices known to be frequently used while driving should reduce the potential of these devices to distract drivers by developing features that discourage their use or that limit their non-driving- or non emergency-related functionality while a vehicle is in operation," the NTSB said.
The NTSB does not have the power to actually impose a ban on driver use of mobile phones, but the unanimous recommendation could sway the states to toughen current distracted driver laws, which in many states bar the use of hand-held devices while driving, but which do not go so far as to ban the use of phones on a hands-free basis.
Were it to be imposed, such a ban could have implications for a range of companies, including automakers, mobile phone makers and makers of after-market hands-free calling gear.