The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is proposing new regulations that would completely ban all hand-held cell phone use by truck and bus drivers while operating commercial vehicles.
“Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “This proposed rule will go a long way toward keeping a driver’s full attention focused on the road.”
The proposed rule is coming from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and would prohibit commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).
Drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver’s license (CDL) for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver’s CDL after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use.
Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving would face a maximum penalty of $11,000. Approximately four million interstate commercial drivers would be affected by this proposal.
FMCSA added that its research shows that reaching for a hand-held cell phone while driving makes a commercial truck three times more likely to be involved in a crash, while dialing a hand-held cell phone while driving increases risk of a crash by six times.
The agency noted that nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009, with distraction-related fatalities representing 16% of overall traffic fatalities in 2009, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research.