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Safety Organization Points to Cell Phone Distraction on Boats

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has amplified calls for cell phone safety and regulation among boaters following a pair of boating accidents last December. Both accidents involved Coast Guard boats and one, on December 20, resulted in the death of an eight-year-old boy during the San Diego Parade of Lights.

While the call for cell phone regulation in regards to distracted driving has mostly been focused on car and truck drivers, the NTSB notes a disconcerting rise in distracted driving on the water as well. Earlier this month, in a letter to the Coast Guard, NTSB officials officially addressed mobile distraction among boaters for the first time.

Rather than focus specifically on boats, it seems that new NTSB endeavors will seek to limit texting and cell phone use on vehicles of any kind.

In 2009, about 23 percent of boating accidents (1,084) were reported to involve "operator inattention" or "improper lookout," according to Coast Guard statistics.

Responding to a call from NTSB officials to regulate cell phone use by its officers, the Coast Guard announced that it had banned cell phone use by boat operators on July 16 and tightly restricted use by other crew members.

NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman also asked the Coast Guard to "issue a broad safety advisory to the entire maritime industry" in regards to the risk posed by cell phone use while piloting a boat.

In the two December boat accidents involving Coast Guard vessels, a determination has not yet been made as to what caused the crashes. However, officials have confirmed that cell phones were being used by members of the crew in both instances.

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