The federal government has enacted a ban on text messaging for drivers of all large commercial trucks and buses to prevent potentially deadly and catastrophic traffic accidents.
The ban goes into effect immediately, and drivers who violate the ban could find themselves hit with fines of up to $2,750. This law follows a similar prohibition against “texting” by all drivers of federal vehicles that went into effect in December.
The prohibition, announced earlier this month by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, comes after a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study this fall found that tasks that drew the drivers’ eyes away from the road ahead of them significantly increased the risk of an accident. The study was compiled from several driving studies conducted by the institute, and the collected data equaled about six million miles of driving.
Heavy vehicle and truck drivers were 23.2 times more likely than a non-distracted driver to have a truck accident if they were texting, 6.7 times as likely to crash while reaching for, or using, an electronic device, and 5.9 times as likely to have an accident while dialing on a cell phone.
Drivers of light vehicles and cars were at much less risk of having an accident, but still faced a 2.8 times greater risk of crashing while dialing a cell phone than a non-distracted driver and were 1.4 times more likely to crash while reaching for an object and 1.3 times as likely to have an auto accident while talking on the cell phone.
On October 1, Maryland became the 10th state to make it illegal for any driver operating a motor vehicle to send a text message and the 18th state to enact some kind of law restricting text messaging while driving. On the same day, President Barack Obama issued an executive order banning text messaging by federal workers operating government vehicles, or driving their own vehicles on government business. The senate is also weighing new legislation that would force all 50 states to enact texting bans, or potentially lose millions of dollars in federal funding.
In late July, four Democratic Senators introduced legislation that would give states two years to enact new laws banning text messaging and sending e-mail messages while driving. Those states that fail to do so would lose 25% of their highway funding each year they had no such law, until they lost the entirety of their funding. The legislation was introduced as AAA has ramped up efforts calling for a nationwide ban on ‘texting while driving’ and other cell phone-related activities that they refer to as ‘distracted driving.’