(WASHINGTON) -- In the moments before his tractor-trailer veered across the median on Interstate 65 in Kentucky, the 45-year-old driver of the big rig was on the phone.
The truck slammed into an oncoming passenger van, killing both drivers and nine other people traveling in the van. Two children in the van, who were in child seats, survived the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board said the March 2010 accident was the worst highway crash to occur in Kentucky in a generation. The NTSB Tuesday recommended a ban on the use of cellphones by all commercial drivers.
The proposal is the most comprehensive ban on hand-held and hands-free devices that the board has issued. The NTSB, which cannot require a ban, sent its recommendation to both the states and the federal government.
If enacted, the ban would affect 3.7 million drivers, according to the NTSB. “Changing behavior can start right now, for drivers of big rigs, but also for the rest of us,” NTSB Board Chairman Deborah Hersman said. “When you are at the wheel, driving safely should be your only focus.
“I can tell you that commercial vehicle drivers are not going to embrace this,” Hersman added, “but we are not here to be popular.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says the real challenge with all cellphone bans is enforcement. And the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) suggests that a ban put in place by companies, not the government, would be met with more success. Both groups say any ban on mobile devices will be more effective if drivers know their jobs are dependent on not using phones while they drive.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio