Distractions

August 14, 2009 1:40:40 PM PDT
I've been trying very hard to keep my email devices away from me while I'm driving. There's simply too much evidence that texting while driving is one of the most distracting things any of us can do.

My daughter is about to get her license - and I certainly want to set a good example. So texting is outlawed.

But distraction while driving isn't the only problem.

Tonight, startling new developments about being distracted while controlling air traffic. As in - an air traffic controller not paying attention in the tower because he's talking to his girlfriend on the phone.

That's the take away from an NTSB preliminary report released this afternoon about last weekend's mid-air collision between a private plane and a tourist helicopter over the Hudson River.

The report doesn't draw specific conclusions yet - but it does paint a troubling perfect-storm of problems that day: what appears a slow or sloppy trade-off of radio frequencies for the small plane's pilot between the towers at Newark and Teterboro, where the plane took off; a lack of acknowledgement by the pilot; and, perhaps most importantly, no reaction from either the Newark or Teterboro's controllers to the alarms that were going before the accident - they said they didn't see the alarms.

Did the Teterboro controller's phone call to his girlfriend distract him?

The NTSB isn't saying specifically that the distracted controller was responsible, but they do seem to be open to the idea.

Last night, we led our 11 p.m. newscast with the news that the FAA, during its investigation of the crash, discovered that one controller at Teterboro was talking on the phone with his girlfriend, and his supervisor was MIA from the tower. Both were unacceptable, said the FAA, but officials insisted the controllers' behavior did not cause the crash.

Today, the NTSB seems to question that assumption. Was the FAA trying to get ahead of the parade? Was it just spin control? Or was it incompetence?

Tonight at 11, we'll have the latest in the investigation. And if you want to read the NTSB report, CLICK HERE to be directed to our website.

Also at 11, only three little steps, but they're a major obstacle if you're in a wheelchair. Handicapped residents in a housing project in the Lower East Side took their case to Tappy Phillips and 7 On Your Side. So why won't the Housing Authority install a wheelchair ramp?

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Jeff Smith (in for Lee Goldberg) with the weekend AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

And a note: I'm on vacation for a couple of weeks, taking time to enjoy my newly expanded family. Thanks to all of you who have sent good wishes and some amazing notes. See you in a couple of weeks.

BILL RITTER


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