In a far-reaching recommendation, the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday called on all 50 states to enact across-the-board cell phone bans for drivers -- even when going hands-free.
The NTSB plan would prohibit all drivers nationwide from texting and making non-emergency cell phone calls from behind the wheel, The New York Times reports.
The use of hands-free devices while driving should also be barred, the NTSB says.
"No call, no text, no update is worth a human life," NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman told The Times.
The NTSB's investigation of a deadly chain-reaction crash in Missouri was the driving force for its new recommendation.
In the Missouri crash, a 19-year-old driver sent 11 text messages in 11 minutes before he slammed into a tractor-trailer, USA Today reports. The crash caused a chain reaction that killed two people, including the texting teenager, and sent three dozen people to the hospital.
While the NTSB is calling for a nationwide cell phone ban, it's not planning to push Congress to act. Rather, Hersman told The Hill newspaper her agency's sights are set on states -- more than 30 of which already enforce cell phone bans for drivers.
"States are the ones that can pass laws, they can enforce those laws and in many cases, they are responsible for educational campaigns," Hersman said. But she also acknowledged political forces may try to derail the push for new laws.
The new NTSB recommendation follows a similar agency suggestion earlier this year to enact cell phone bans for commercial drivers of trucks and buses.
The NTSB is a federal agency that investigates transportation accidents and promotes safety. It is independent from the Transportation Department, and has no regulatory control over transportation.
Cell phone ban for all drivers nationwide, suggests NTSB (The Christian Science Monitor)
Cell Phone and Texting Laws by State (Governors Highway Safety Association)
Targeting Distracted Driving on Company Time (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)