The Department of Transportation (DOT) has published proposed rules that would make permanent an interim ban on texting while driving by the nation's commercial truck and bus drivers operating in interstate commerce.
The interim rule, announced in January, is supported by the American Trucking Associations (ATA), which represents the nation's major trucking companies. ATA has urged DOT to encourage states to bar all motorists from texting while driving. Twenty states have already done so, and at an industry conference last month, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood hinted strongly that DOT would push states to enact what would be a nationwide ban on the practice.
Research from DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) 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 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, FMCSA said. Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers, the agency said.
Truck and bus drivers cited for texting while operating commercial vehicles may be fined as much as $2,750, DOT said. "We are committed to using every resource available to eliminate the dangers of distracted driving," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro in a statement. Interested parties have 30 days to comment on the proposed rules.