Studies show that commercial vehicle operators using hand-held cell phones while driving have a higher risk of getting into truck accidents. Last week, the U.S. Department of Transportation made its latest effort to end distracted driving with a final rule banning hand-held cell phone use by all big-rig and bus drivers.
Announcing the ban last Wednesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood noted, “When drivers of large trucks, buses, and hazardous materials take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds, the outcome can be deadly.” According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distraction-related deaths accounted for 16 percent of traffic fatalities in 2009.
The new rule, jointly issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), will affect about four million truck and bus drivers. Drivers will be fined up to $2,750 for each offense, and multiple violators may be disqualified as commercial vehicle operators.
After two or more serious traffic violations, states will suspend an individual’s commercial driver’s license. Also, commercial truck and bus companies can be fined up to $11,000 for allowing drivers to violate the rule. Commercial operators are already prohibited from texting while driving.
Just using a hand-held cell phone while underway makes big-rig and bus drivers three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-threatening event, according to FMCSA studies. Dialing a hand-held cell phone makes commercial drivers six times more likely to get into a crash or other safety problem.
“I hope that this rule will save lives by helping commercial drivers stay laser-focused on safety at all times while behind the wheel,” LaHood said.