September 25, 2009

Safety Advocates file petition to curb cell use

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) filed a petition, on Thursday, with the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to initiate federal rulemaking to prohibit or restrict the use of unsafe electronic devices, for talking, texting and other purposes, by operators of commercial motor vehicles, such as motorcoach buses, tractor trailers and large vans.

Advocates (www.saferoads.org) filed the petition for rulemaking with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), calling on the agency to:

  • Immediately open a rulemaking proceeding to determine the safety of electronic devices used by drivers operating a CMV.
  • Evaluate all wireless electronic devices used for telecommunications, telematics, entertainment and driver assistance (regardless of whether they are mobile or installed into the vehicle electronics platform) that can be used by drivers while operating a CMV.
  • Determine which devices interfere with the safe operation of CMVs.
  •  Permit exceptions only in emergency situations, and exempt law enforcement and emergency responders who operate CMVs in the conduct of their official duties.
  • Make the violation of using a prohibited or restricted device while operating a CMV a safety violation that automatically triggers the issuance of an Out-of-Service (OOS) order.
  •  Apply the rule to all CMV drivers under FMCSA jurisdiction.
  • Issue a rule to prohibit or restrict the use of devices that interfere with the safe operation of CMVs, and explain the conditions under which devices that are restricted can be used.

A Virginia Tech study issued this year, which was the first to investigate the effects on crash risk of reading and sending text messages, found that texting increased the risk of a safety-critical driving event for truck drivers by 23.2 times. Another study conducted in 2006 found that drivers using cell phones failed to stop at stop signs 10 times more often than drivers not using cell phones.

In 2006, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a safety recommendation urging FMCSA to ban cell phone use by commercial drivers license (CDL) holders who operate motorcoaches or school buses.

In July of this year, the Washington Area Metropolitan Transit Authority (Metro) issued a zero-tolerance policy for Metro bus and rail operators using mobile devices while on the job, while one year ago the Federal Railroad Administration issued an Emergency Order restricting the use electronic devices by railroad employees after a commuter/freight train head-on collision.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at any given moment 11 percent of all motorists are using cell phones while driving, and 25 percent of all police-reported crashes may involve distracted driving.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety is an alliance of consumer, health, law enforcement and safety groups and insurance companies and agents working together to make America's roads safer.

For a copy of Advocates' "Distracted Driving Petition for Rulemaking," click here.

 

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