On Tuesday, U.S Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced federal guidance to expressly prohibit texting by drivers of commercial vehicles such as buses and large trucks.
The prohibition is effective immediately and is the latest in a series of actions taken by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to combat distracted driving since the Secretary convened a national summit on the issue last September.
The action is the result of the U.S. DOT's interpretation of standing rules. Bus and truck drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.
Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than non-distracted drivers. FMCSA research 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. 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.
Because of the safety risks associated with the use of electronic devices while driving, FMCSA is also working on additional regulatory measures that will be announced in the coming months.
The regulatory guidance on today's announcement will be on public display in the Federal Register January 26 and will appear in print in the Federal Register on January 27.