DOT bans texting in trucks and buses

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a federal guidance on January 26 that bans hand-held texting by commercial truck drivers and buses to avoid the danger of distracted driving. The prohibition is effective immediately and follows a similar ban in December 2009 for all drivers of federal government vehicles.

The new ban carries fines up to $2,750. At present, nearly half of the states currently ban texting for all motor vehicles and others are considering the move. Legislation also has been introduced in Congress to prohibit testing by vehicle drivers.

American Trucking Associations (ATA) President and CEO Bill Graves joined LaHood during the announcement of the ban on text messaging by commercial vehicle driver. “Highway safety is critically important to the trucking industry, commercial vehicles, passenger buses and the motoring public,” Graves said. “Our nation’s highways are the trucking industry’s workplace, and we must continue to make them safer for everyone’s benefit. Texting on a handheld phone while driving substantially elevates the risk of being involved in a crash.”

Graves added that ATA supports states’ efforts to ban texting by automobile drivers as well. He said ATA will continue to work with affiliated state trucking associations and diverse stakeholder groups to make that happen. As proof of the trucking industry’s highway safety progress, over the last 5 years the truck-involved fatality rate has declined 22%, the truck-involved injury rate has declined 25%, and both are at record lows.

In October 2008, ATA adopted a policy limiting the use of electronic devices that may distract drivers. ATA policy supports the safe use of technologies and encourages drivers and/or motor carriers to consider a range of policies and safeguards intended to reduce, minimize and/or eliminate driver distractions that may be caused by the increased use of electronic technologies--like global positioning systems and cellular phones--during the operation of all types of motor vehicles. ATA’s policy further recommends that manufacturers and others adopt awareness, training, and safety policies on the use of such technologies—unless required by current laws or regulations—during the operation of a motor vehicle.

ATA’s 42-member Executive Committee voted overwhelmingly last October to support the Avoiding Life-Endangering and Reckless Texting by Drivers Act, which would require states to ban texting while driving. The bill defines a hand-held mobile telephone as mobile telephone or other portable electronic communication device with which a user engages in a call or writes, sends or reads a text message using at least one hand. It does not include a vehicle-integrated, voice-activated device.

Additional information on the federal guidance and distracted driving can be found at the following link http://www.dot.gov/affairs/2010/dot1410.htm.

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