Life on the road
Feds seek ban on texting by interstate commercial truck drivers
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently announced a federal rule that proposes 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.
During a September 2009 Distracted Driving Summit, Secretary LaHood announced the Department’s plan to pursue this regulatory action, as well as rulemakings to reduce the other risks posed by distracted driving. At the time, 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, effective Dec. 31, 2009.
FMCSA 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 the FMCSA, 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, FMCSA is also working on additional regulatory measures that will be announced in the coming months.
“We are committed to using every resource available to eliminate the dangers of distracted driving,” says FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA) is on record as supporting the goals of combating distracted driving, but voiced concerns in January when the interim ban was announced. “We support where they are going, but not how they got there,” says OOIDA’s Executive Vice President Todd Spencer. “Making their action effective immediately bypasses normal regulatory rulemaking processes. Those processes allow actions to be vetted for unintended consequences, as well as potential implementation and enforcement problems.”
OOIDA’s official position on distracted driving: “Professional truckers are the safest drivers on the road per vehicle miles traveled. They have a vested interest in highway safety as their lives and livelihoods depend on it.
“Every day on roadways across America, professional truckers witness drivers operating vehicles while engaged in activities that significantly impede their ability to attend to the task of driving safely. Experience has shown these professionals that, in particular, drivers sending text or e-mail messages while operating a vehicle are a significant hazard to themselves and to other roadway users.
“OOIDA supports government efforts to prohibit motorists from sending text or email messages while operating a moving vehicle. OOIDA also calls upon government entities to aggressively pursue opportunities to educate the motoring public on safe driving practices. The Association also encourages law enforcement agencies to fully enforce existing laws pertaining to inattentive or negligent driving.”