The American Trucking Associations (ATA) today came out in favor of the Department of Transportation's ban on texting by commercial drivers and said DOT should extend the ban to cover texting by motorists.
In a statement, ATA CEO Bill Graves said ATA supports states' efforts to ban texting by automobile drivers, adding that DOT has the power to influence the states to act. Graves said ATA will "continue to work with affiliated state trucking associations and diverse stakeholder groups" to extend the texting ban.
"Texting on a handheld phone while driving substantially elevates the risk of being involved in a crash," said Graves. "To promote highway safety, and further improve the trucking industry's continually improving safety record and that of all commercial vehicles, ATA supports DOT's action to ban the use of handheld wireless devices by commercial drivers to send or receive text messages while driving."
ATA's comments came just hours after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the prohibition, effective immediately, of texting by drivers of commercial vehicles such as large trucks and buses.
"We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe," said Secretary LaHood. "This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving."
Truck and bus drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be fined as much as $2,750, DOT said.
According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) data, drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every six seconds while texting. At speeds of 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, the agency said.
Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers, FMCSA said.