U.S. Safety Board: Ban Cellphone Use by Commercial Truckers
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is urging that all cell phone use by the nation’s 3.7 million commercial truck drivers be banned, except in emergencies. The proposal, announced on Tuesday, followed a hearing on a 2010 crash in Kentucky in which a tractor-trailer slammed into a passenger van and killed 11 people. The Board said it was the worst highway accident in Kentucky in a generation, and ruled that distracted driving while using a cell phone probably caused the crash. The NTSB had data showing that the driver of the big rig was texting and making calls frequently in the hours that led up to the accident.
The Board, which is not empowered to require the cell phone ban, sent its recommendation to the federal government and to states. The proposal is the most comprehensive ban on hand-held and hands-free devices that the board has issued. It had previously asked for a ban on cell phone use by young drivers and bus drivers while they are at the wheel.
In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibited truckers from texting while driving and expects a rule to be proposed soon that will ban truck drivers from using hand-held cell phones. “Distraction is becoming the new DUI,” NTSB board member Robert Sumwalt said.
As Bart Jansen reports in USA TODAY,
Deborah Hersman, the safety-board chairman, acknowledged that truckers would likely oppose the recommendation. But she compared it to the initial efforts to require people to wear seat belts or to stop smoking indoors.
‘Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways,’ Hersman says. ‘It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds.’
Matt Hosford writes for ABC News:
‘Texting or talking on the phone while driving can turn deadly in a matter of seconds, particularly when a big rig or a bus is involved,’ U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement to ABC News. ‘That is why the U.S. Department of Transportation has already banned commercial drivers from texting while driving and has rulemaking underway to ban hand-held cellphone use. There is no call or text message that is worth risking lives.’
The challenge with all cell phone bans is enforcing them, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety said. The American Trucking Associations, which comprises 37,000 companies across the U.S., favors a hand-held phone and texting ban for commercial drivers, but is not taking a position on hands-free phones because of varied results from safety studies.