Government Bans Texting By Truck and Bus Drivers
January 26, 2010, 6:00 am
The Department of Transportation plans to announce new rules Tuesday that will prohibit interstate commercial truckers and bus drivers from sending text messages while they are operating moving vehicles.
Truckers and bus drivers who violate the rules, which are effective immediately, face civil or criminal fines of up to $2,750.
The rules stem from a broader effort by the Transportation Department to reduce distracted driving. At a summit on the subject that the agency held in October, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood pledged to crack down on distracted driving by truckers and bus drivers and establish rules governing not just their use of phones and other devices to text and talk, but also the use of computers mounted on dashboards that are used to communicate with dispatchers.
Truckers acknowledged in an article published just prior to the summit that they regularly use those computers while driving, even though some trucking companies discourage them from doing so. Research shows that such multitasking greatly increases the risk of a crash.
The Department of Transportation said that it is still working on additional regulations that would govern the use of such computers by truckers, as well as when truckers are allowed to use cellphones for conversation.
But the federal agency said that it wanted to start by issuing regulations banning texting. It noted that research shows that texting motorists take their eyes from the road for nearly five seconds, enough time to cover a football field at highway speeds. Research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute shows that truckers who text are 23 times more likely to get into a crash or near-crash than truckers not texting.
“We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the road with them to be safe,” Secretary LaHood said in a news release. “This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.”
Safety advocates praised the new regulations and said they hope that more safety measures are forthcoming for trucks and buses.
Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway Safety, a nonprofit group that last September petitioned the transportation agency to ban truckers from texting and using their on-board computers while operating a moving vehicle, called Tuesday’s ban “a welcomed first step.”
“Is it everything we want? No,” Ms. Gillan said. “But it’s a good first step, absolutely.”