A jointly proposed rule by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) seeks to ban commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. Under the proposed rule, truck drivers could still use cell phones with hands-free devices. This middle-ground represents a shift from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's request that all cell phone use by CMV drivers be prohibited.
Mr. LaHood, who considers trucks driven by distracted drivers as "80,000-pound unguided missiles," is of the opinion that no driver should be using a cell phone on the road, hands free or otherwise. Research shows that reaching for an item, such as a cell phone, increases the risk of an accident or other "safety critical event" by three times. Dialing a cell phone while driving increases the risk by six times.
Though banning all cell phone use seems harsh, Mr. LaHood's insistence was inspired by numerous tragedies involving distracted driving due to cell phone use. For example, a March 2010 accident in Kentucky involved a distracted truck driver who crossed a 65-foot median, broke though a cable barrier and struck a passenger van on its way to a wedding, killing himself and 10 of the 12 van passengers.
The driver had used his cell phone numerous times while driving during the 24 hours before the crash, making four calls just minutes before the horrible accident. Interestingly, it is believed the truck driver was using a hands-free device at the time of the accident.
As Mr. LaHood aptly stated, "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." Though the proposed rule does not eliminate all distracted driving related to cell phones, it is a major step in the right direction to making our roads safer for all.
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