The U.S. Transportation Department on March 31 announced that it intends to implement rules that would make permanent a ban on texting by commercial truckers and bus drivers. Interim rules prohibiting mobile texting went into effect in January. In making the announcement, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that the rulemaking “keeps our commitment to making our roads safer by reducing the threat of distracted driving.”

According the New York Times

As navigation systems, cellphones and mobile electronics have become prevalent in cars and trucks, safety advocates and the government have pushed for restrictions. The Transportation Department reports that 5,870 people were killed and 515,000 injured in 2008 in crashes connected to driver distraction, often involving mobile devices or cellphones.

Trucking and bus industry officials have said they support the ban on text-messaging and many companies already have policies. The government prohibition does not apply to onboard devices that allow dispatchers to send text messages to truck drivers, but industry officials say most of the devices have mechanisms preventing their use while a truck is moving.

On his blog, Secretary LaHood notes that Federal Motor Carrier Safety research indicates that texting motorists take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds , and that at 55 miles per hour, that 4.6 seconds is enough time to cover the length of an entire football field including both end zones. “Now, imagine a truck or bus hurtling that distance at that speed with a driver whose attention is not on the road ahead. I think you can see that there would be consequences,” the secretary added.

The proposed rules were published in the April 1 edition of the Federal Register. The deadline for public input is May 3. To learn more about the specifics of the proposal and to file formal comments, go to Regulation Room.


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