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Feds Say California Ban On Cell Phone Driving Should Be National

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Traffic is seen backed up on westbound Interstate 80 in Emeryville. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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WASHINGTON (CBS SF) – Federal accident investigators on Tuesday recommended all 50 states ban the use of cell phones and other electronic devices by all drivers except in emergencies.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendation followed a finding by the board that the initial collision in a deadly highway pileup in Missouri last year was caused by the inattention of a 19 year-old-pickup driver who sent or received 11 texts in the 11 minutes immediately before the accident.

KCBS’ Bob Melrose Reports:

The pickup driver and a 15-year-old student on one of the school buses were killed. Thirty-eight other people were injured.

In 2008, it became illegal in California to use hand-held cell phones while driving. A law banning texting while driving took effect in 2009.

Although state law allows the use of hands free devices, the California Highway Patrol plans an aggressive education campaign to discourage all sorts of distracted driving.

“Texting is one thing we’re focusing on, but it can be anything else that people don’t think about,” said CHP Officer Tony Tam, such as “eating a hamburger, dealing with kids in the backseat, playing with the radio, adjusting a CD.”

The NTSB’s recommendation makes an exception for use of phones and other devices in emergency situations.

The board doesn’t have the power to impose regulations, but its recommendations carry significant weight with lawmakers.

Tam said the CHP has received a grant to pay for more aggressive enforcement of California’s distracted driving law.

Critics said the $20 to $50 fines are not high enough, although the actual cost of a citation can rise substantially because of fees added by local governments.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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