DOT to ban texting by truckers, limit phone use

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Truck and interstate bus drivers would be prohibited from using text messaging while driving under a rulemaking planned by the U.S. Department of Transportation. In addition, DOT plans to place restrictions on the use of cell phones while driving.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s widely anticipated announcement came Thursday, Oct. 1, at the end of a highly publicized two-day summit on distracted driving by commercial and automobile drivers. DOT recognizes distracted driving as a problem among all drivers, but the department currently has authority only to regulate commercial vehicle operators.

Other elements of the Obama administration’s plan include:

  • An executive order signed by President Obama on Wednesday, Sept. 30, directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles; when using electronic equipment supplied by the government while driving; or while driving privately owned vehicles when they’re on official government business. The order also encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to adopt and enforce their own policies banning texting while driving on the job;
  • Making permanent restrictions on the use of cell phones and other electronic devices in rail operations; and
  • Disqualifying school bus drivers convicted of texting while driving from maintaining their commercial driver’s licenses.
  • As for more broadly targeted initiatives, LaHood pledged to work with Congress to ensure that the issue of distracted driving is addressed appropriately. He also called on state and local governments to work with USDOT to reduce fatalities and crashes by making distracted driving part of their state highway plans, and by continuing to pass state and local laws against distracted driving in all types of vehicles, especially school buses. LaHood asked state and local governments to back up public awareness campaigns with high-visibility enforcement actions.

    DOT is establishing an online clearinghouse on the risks of distracted driving, aimed especially at young people, LaHood said. He also promised to continue research on combating distracted driving and announced that a demonstration program would be launched this year to evaluate techniques that states can use to get the most out of their efforts to end distracted driving.

    The two-day summit brought together safety experts, researchers, industry representatives, elected officials and members of the public to share expertise, experiences and ideas for reducing distracted driving behavior, and addressed the safety risk posed by distracted driving across all modes of transportation.

    A full webcast of the summit is to be available at www.dot.gov. For CCJ‘s coverage of the first day of the summit, click here.