Texting Now Banned for Commercial Drivers

Truckers and bus drivers are now banned from texting when driving, the Washington Post just reported. Cell phone use and texting while driving causes an astronomical 1.6 million automobile accidents annually, according to estimates by the National Safety Council (NSC), which means that 28 percent of all vehicular crashes that occur on U.S. highways each year are the result of drivers texting or talking on their cell phones.

In July, Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute revealed that texting truckers are 23 times likelier to either be involved in a crash or a near miss, said the Washington Post. “We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, quoted the Washington Post. “This is an important safety step, and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving,” LaHood added. LaHood may be looking to ban use of cell phones while driving for all drivers, experts speculate, said the Washington Post.

According to the NSC press release, 1.4 million crashes each year are caused by drivers using cell phones with a minimum of 200,000 additional crashes each year caused by drivers who are texting. In constructing its estimates, NSC used widely-accepted statistical methods and analysis based on data of driver cell phone use from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and from peer-reviewed research that quantifies the risk of using a cell phone and texting while driving. NSC’s statistical model and estimates were peer-reviewed by academic researchers in traffic safety and biostatistics.

Some senators also just released legislation looking to ban all texting when driving, reported the Washington Post. “This is a giant step forward for safety on our roads, but we must do more,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer (Democrat-New York), quoted the Washington Post. “We need the administration to support our ban, which does the same thing for cars and mass transit that they are now doing for trucks and buses,” he added.

According to LaHood, commercial vehicle drivers caught texting could be served with fines up to $2,750; however, enforcement is challenging and the ban might not reduce crashes, explained the Washington Post. “The enforcement problem here is enormous,” said Russ Rader of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, reported the Washington Post. “It’s not clear this is going to make any difference on the road in terms of crashes,” he added.

We have long been following accidents resulting from drivers texting or talking on cell phones when driving. For example, in 2008, the Federal Railroad Administration issued an emergency order prohibiting all train operators from using cell phones while on duty. The new rule was issued years after it first considered the matter, two weeks after the California Public Utilities Commission imposed the same restriction, and one day after the National Transportation Safety Board issued a preliminary report saying that text messages were sent and received by Metrolink engineer Robert M. Sanchez’s cell phone in the moments before his commuter train collided with a Union Pacific freight train that September. Twenty-five people died and 135 sustained injuries in that accident.

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