Safety investigators called on Tuesday for a nationwide ban on texting and cell phone use while driving, a prohibition that would include certain applications of hands-free technology becoming more common in new cars.
The National Transportation Safety Board recommendation goes beyond measures proposed or imposed to date by regulators and states, most of which already ban texting while behind the wheel.
"When it comes to using electronic devices, it may seem like it's a quick call or a quick text or a tweet, but accidents happen in the blink of an eye," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "No emails, no texts, no calls. It's worth a human life."
More than 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving crashes in the United States in 2010, according to Transportation Department figures.
The board's recommendation follows an investigation of a Missouri chain-reaction crash that killed two people last year, an accident blamed on a driver who was texting.
The five-member board's watershed recommendation for states to impose a sweeping ban is not binding but the panel's views are often influential.
Congress has shown no interest in banning cell phone use or texting while driving. The Transportation Department has waged a public campaign on the issue under Secretary Ray LaHood that has included limited bans for federal workers and truckers.
The agency has raised concerns about distracted driving and hands-free technology with auto companies but has not called for a prohibition or asked industry to stop putting it into new vehicles.