Effective January 26, 2010, the United States government has banned the use of hand-held texting by drivers of large commercial trucks and buses. A similar ban was implemented in December 2009 for drivers of all federal government vehicles.
The prohibition is the latest in a series of actions taken by the U.S. government to combat distracted driving. In September 2009, the Secretary of Transportation convened a national summit on this serious driving issue and has set up a website dedicated to resolving the problem.
In his opening remarks at the Distracted Driving Summit, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said, “Every single time you take your eyes off the road or talk on the phone while you’re driving – even for just a few seconds – you put your life in danger. And you put others in danger too. This kind of behavior is irresponsible – and the consequences are devastating.”
In announcing the ban, the Secretary said “We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe. This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.”
According to the National Safety Council, drivers who are texting cause an estimated 200,000 crashes on U.S. roads. Drivers of commercial trucks and buses who text while driving may now be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.
Research from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shows that drivers who take their eyes off the road while sending and reading text messages are significantly more at risk for being involved in an accident than those drivers who do not text while driving. Research demonstrated that texting drivers take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, this means that a texting driver travels the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road. Those drivers are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers.
Because of the significant safety risks associated with the use of electronic devices while driving, the FMCSA is also working on additional regulatory measures that will be announced in the coming months.