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Thursday, February 4, 2010

Effective Immediately: DOT Bans Commercial Truck, Bus Drivers From Texting Behind the Wheel

Posted by Al Tompkins at 12:01 AM on Jan. 27, 2010
The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a sweeping rule on Tuesday that bans commercial truck and bus drivers nationwide from texting while driving. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already ban all drivers from texting while operating a vehicle.

The DOT news release explained the rule, which took effect immediately:

" 'We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,' said Secretary Ray LaHood. 'This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.'

"The action is the result of the Department’s interpretation of standing rules. Truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.

" 'Our regulations will help prevent unsafe activity within the cab,' said Anne Ferro, Administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). 'We want to make it crystal clear to operators and their employers that texting while driving is the type of unsafe activity that these regulations are intended to prohibit.' "

The Associated Press said
:

"The prohibition doesn't apply to onboard devices that allow dispatchers to send text messages to truck drivers, but most of those devices have mechanisms that prevent their use while a truck is in motion, said Clayton Boyce, a spokesman for the American Trucking Association.

"The trucking industry supports limiting the use of electronic devices that distract drivers, Boyce said.

... "Research by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting, the department said. At 55 miles per hour, this means that the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road, the department said."

Last year, CNN reported:

"Truckers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to crash or get into a near-wreck than an undistracted driver, while car drivers face the greatest danger when dialing their cell phones, a transportation study found.

"The likelihood of a crash due to cell-phone use disproportionately affected truckers in comparison with car drivers, according to the study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

"When dialing, the chance of an accident for a truck driver is 5.9 times more likely versus 2.8 times more likely for a car driver, the study found. If a trucker reaches for an electronic device, the crash risk is 6.7 times as high, while the risk for a car driver is 1.4 times as high, it showed.

"Truckers only fared better while talking or listening on a cell phone, with the increased risk one time more likely compared with 1.3 times for a car driver.

"Researchers viewed video footage from cameras inside of vehicles to look at how drivers engaged with the road while using their cell phones, said Rich Hanowski, director of the transportation institute's Center for Truck and Bus Safety. The study was based on research from 2004 to 2007, he said."

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