Editor's Journal

Randy Grider | January 01, 2012

Hanging it up

Time to push the universal end button on distracted driving

In late November, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration formally banned commercial drivers from using handheld cell phones and other communication devices while driving. It went into effect Jan. 1. The U.S. Department of Transportation had already banned truckers from texting while driving.

Randy Grider is editor of Truckers News. Write him at rgrider@randallreilly.com.

The new regs have spawned a great deal of response from truckers — mainly concerning how they were being unfairly singled out by regulators. They point to drivers of four-wheelers who in sheer numbers pose the biggest public threat with distracted driving, especially cell phone use.

Truckers regularly report witnessing drivers who are texting and swerving and dialing the phone and drifting across the center line or off the road. It has gotten to the point that it’s almost impossible to drive one mile without seeing someone using their cell phone in some unsafe fashion.

Unfortunately, truckers have a target on their backs in any accident no matter who is at fault.

The truth is no one should be texting while driving. It is extremely dangerous. And it’s pretty hard to argue that having both eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel is not the safest way to drive. This tried-and-true method harkens all the way back to high school driver’s education for many of us.

Unfortunately many people — especially commuters and young drivers — have forgotten that highway travel demands a person’s full attention. Distractions while driving sometimes leads to deadly results.

Many states have laws concerning cell phone use while driving. So far there is no federal law that makes cell phone use while driving a violation. And that needs to come from Congress because the FMCSA has no authority to regulate the general driving public.

Perhaps there should be a tougher uniform law that severely punishes any person who injures or kills someone while purposely allowing themselves to be distracted by a cell phone, radio or whatever while behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Unfortunately, truckers have a target on their backs in any accident no matter who is at fault. The mainstream press — whether it’s intentional or not — has historically branded truckers as the aggressor in truck-related crashes.

Truckers are right that handheld cell phone use while driving is not a trucking problem. It’s a cultural problem that increasingly impacts all motorists. We would be much better off if everyone would just hang up and drive.

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