U.S. Seeks Permanent Ban on Texting by Bus, Truck Drivers

March 31, 2010

U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has proposed a federal rule that would to specifically prohibit texting by interstate commercial truck and bus drivers. The proposed rule would make permanent an interim ban announced in January 2010 that applied existing safety rules to the specific issue of texting.

The Department of Transportation also announced a partnership with Cornell University to increase public involvement and collaboration in the rulemaking process. The Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) partnership will make the federal regulatory process more accessible to the public through Regulation Room, an online public participation environment where people can learn about and discuss proposed federal regulations and provide feedback.

The proposed rule will be on public display in the Federal Register March 31 and will appear in print in the Federal Register on April 1. Citizens can find more information on the Cornell online effort and provide comments on the proposed rule at regulationroom.org over the next 30 days.

Federal research shows that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, this means that the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road, according to researchers.

Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers. Because of the safety risks associated with the use of electronic devices while driving, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is also working on additional regulatory measures that will be announced in the coming months.

Last September, LaHood announced the department’s plan to pursue this regulatory action, as well as rulemakings to reduce the other risks posed by distracted driving.

President Obama also signed an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles or with government-owned equipment. Federal employees were required to comply with the ban starting on Dec. 30, 2009.

A number of states have texting while driving also.

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