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US government bans texting for commercial drivers

[JURIST] The US Department of Transportation (DOT) [official website] announced Tuesday a federal ban on texting while driving [press release] for commercial truck and bus drivers. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood [official profile] said [remarks] that the prohibition will take effect immediately. Drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750. The regulation, proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) [official website] applies to inter-state truck drivers as well as commercial bus or van drivers who carry more than eight passengers. FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro [official profile] said:

Our regulations will help prevent unsafe activity within the cab. ... We want to make it crystal clear to operators and their employers that texting while driving is the type of unsafe activity that these regulations are intended to prohibit.

The regulation will be publicly posted in the Federal Register on Thursday and appear in print on Friday.

The DOT sponsored a summit on distracted driving [Federal Register notice; official website] in September to assess the distractions caused by devices and address issues to reduce accidents on the roadways. The federal ban for commercial drivers comes weeks after Illinois, Oregon, and New Hampshire joined the nearly 20 states and the federal government [JURIST report] to prohibit texting while driving [JURIST news archive]. In October, US President Barack Obama signed an executive order [JURIST report] making it illegal for federal employees or government contractors to use text messaging while driving. In October, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [official website] released the results of a study [text, PDF] that reported 5,800 deaths and nearly 600,000 injuries in traffic accidents in 2008 where driver distraction was indicated on the police report.

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