Attempts to Curb Texting by Commercial Drivers

Drivers of commercial vehicles who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in safety-critical events (e.g., accidents, near accidents, lane departures) than drivers who do not text, according to 2009 Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) study.

Given the number of miles driven by commercial drivers and the public risks associated with accidents involving commercial vehicles, the Department of Transportation is proposing a new rule that would prohibit interstate commercial truck drivers, bus drivers and other commercial vehicle operators from texting while driving.

Risks Associated With Texting While Driving

In the amount of time it takes to look down at a text message, about four and half seconds, a driver who is driving at 55 mph can travel 371 feet - the approximate length of a football field. If the driver is driving at 65 mph, the distance covered in the same amount of time is 439 feet. It only takes a fraction of a second to cause a serious, even fatal motor-vehicle accident.

According the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2008 distracted drivers killed almost 6,000 people and injured more than half a million more. One of the leading causes of distracted driving is cell-phone use, including texting while driving.

Proposed Change Aimed at Commercial Drivers and Texting

Generally, texting and driving are governed by state laws. However, all commercial drivers must abide by additional federal laws and regulations. In an effort to prevent commercial drivers from texting while driving, the DOT has proposed a new rule. The new rule would:

  • Prohibit operators of commercial motor vehicles engaged in interstate commerce from texting while driving
  • Provide sanctions for operators who engage in interstate commerce and are convicted of texting while driving
  • Punish commercial motor-vehicle operators convicted of violating state or local texting-while-driving-laws

This proposed rule is just one part of a larger initiative by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) to curb the dangers associated with distracted driving and the increased use of mobile electronic devises in commercial and passenger motor vehicles. The FMCSA is also working on regulatory measures, which are expected to be announced in the next few months.