Jan 26, 2010 1:41 PM by Rob Kirkpatrick
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Transportation Department said Tuesday it
is prohibiting truck and bus drivers from sending text messages on
hand-held devices while operating commercial vehicles.
The prohibition, which applies to drivers of interstate buses
and trucks over 10,000 pounds, is effective immediately, the
department said in a statement. Truck and bus drivers who text
while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or
criminal penalties of up to $2,750, the department said.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already prohibit
all drivers from texting behind the wheel, according to the
Governors Highway Safety Association. Another 10 states restrict
texting by novice drivers.
Trucking and bus industry officials said they support the
"A lot of our members already have policies in place. It's just
safe and smart," said American Bus Association President Pete
The prohibition doesn't apply to onboard devices that allow
dispatchers to send text messages to truck drivers, but most of
those devices have mechanisms that prevent their use while a truck
is in motion, said Clayton Boyce, a spokesman for the American
The trade association for the wireless industry, CTIA, also
supports a ban on texting and e-mailing while driving, said Amy
Storey, a spokeswoman for the association.
"While mobile devices are important safety tools, there's an
appropriate time and an inappropriate time to use them," Storey
Research by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
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, the department said. At 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
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been campaigning against
texting and cell phone use while driving. President Barack Obama
signed an executive order directing federal employees not to engage
in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles or with
government-owned equipment. Federal employees were required to
comply with the ban starting on Dec. 30, 2009.
LaHood said enforcing restrictions on texting and cell phone use
by drivers will be difficult. He urged the wireless industry to
work with public officials to come up with a solution.
Everyone knows texting or talking on the phone while driving is
dangerous, LaHood told reporters, but people do it anyway.
The Transportation Department and safety advocates have also
joined forces to create FocusDriven, an organization to campaign
against cell phone use or texting on handheld computers while
driving. The organization will be modeled after Mothers Against
Drunk Drivers, which has successfully lobbied for tougher
Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez
of New Jersey have introduced legislation to prod states to pass
laws banning texting by all drivers. The bill would reduce federal
highway aid by 25 percent to states that don't enact bans.