Commercial driver texting ban gets media legs

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Updated Dec 14, 2009

In advance of U.S. DOT’s finally scheduled “distracted driving summit” next week, it might come as no surprise that the alliance of safety groups known as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety ( held a press conference and announced their petition to DOT to restrict or outright prohibit the use of electronic devices while running down the road. Most of the attention of late has of course been on the activity of texting, specifically, after the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s study of the subject, but the Advocates press release notes “electronic devices” pretty broadly, urging FMCSA to make determinations on potential restriction of all manner of in-cab gagdets. And the Associated Press noted in this story that the National Transportation Safety Board recommended banning all on-highway cell phone use by commercial drivers three years ago.

Here’s hoping it all doesn’t get out of hand.

Any conscientious driver well knows the dangers of phone use on the road. Take the subject of yesterday’s post, Desiree Wood, a company driver and prolific user of Twitter, whom as such you might expect to oppose a federal ban. Though we don’t talk much about the topic in the video below, except to make note of Wood’s offtime routine, which is saturated with mobile-phone messaging to post to Twitter, Wood says it would make sense to ban texting while driving. One of her pieces of evidence, though, is the large number of auto drivers she sees out on the road texting, talking, texting — not paying much more than cursory attention to the road ahead. The feds, of course, don’t have the authority to restrict on-road use in private vehicles. That falls to the states. The Advocates press release makes note of restrictions in place in some states:

? Text messaging –18 states and DC ban all drivers from using cell phones for text messaging while driving, 9 states ban teen drivers specifically, and 1 state bans school bus drivers specifically;
? Cell Phones – 21 states and DC ban teen drivers from using both hand-held and hands-free cell phones while driving, while school bus drivers are prohibited in 17 states and DC; 9 states and DC prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers 18 years and older.
? More than 52 countries ban or restrict cell phone use while driving.

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As for her own on-highway phone use, Woods says, it’s nil: “Anyone who knows me knows how hard it is to get in touch with me out on the road.” As it is with so many other drivers, this trucking reporter can well attest.