In the US, truck drivers driving commercials trucks and bus drivers will no longer be able to text and drive. There is already a text ban in place by many larger transportation and trucking companies (including United Parcel Service and FedEx), but the federal ban makes the ban industry-wide and comes with tough penalties. Many in the industry are applauding the decision, which they say will help reduce bus accidents and trucking accidents.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has made banning distracted driving a top priority and this first step may pave the way for more extensive texting bans for all drivers. LaHood cannot ban passenger car drivers from texting and driving (even though driver texting has been extensively linked to car accidents) but rules regarding the trucking industry give him the authority to ban texting among truck drivers on the roads. Truck drivers who text while driving will now face fines of up to $2,750.
However, some experts are concerned about the enforcement of the new policy. Experts at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, for example, note that LaHood’s new regulation may be largely symbolic and may not have an immediate effect on road safety, as texting is hard to spot. Police authorities agree that enforcing texting laws is difficult, since drivers hold their mobile devices below the window level. In most cases, truck drivers are caught texting and driving only after an accident, when police look at phone records and records on mobile devices to show that a driver was texting at the time of a crash. Some police note that lane departures and drivers who glance down frequently may be red flag signs that someone is texting while driving, but again this is hard to spot.
There are plenty of studies and lots of research that supports the idea of a texting ban. A study conducted by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute found that text drivers who text are 23 times more likely than non-texting drivers to be involved in a near-collision or a traffic accident. The National Safety Council reports that 28% of road accidents occur when drivers are distracted by cell phones or texting. Cell phone conversations accounted for 1.4 million accidents last year while texting was linked to 200, 000 collisions.
Part of the problem is the cultural perception of cell phones and texting. Many drivers do not believe that their texting affects their driving because it is a quick activity. Many drivers also rely heavily on texting. According to federal statistics, at any given moment on America’s roads, about 812,000 drivers are distracted by cell phones. However, despite driver perceptions, studies do show that texting affects driving. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, drivers texting while driving have their eyes off the road about 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds they drive, meaning that drivers who text are driving most of the time with there eyes off the road. A driver who is texting and driving at 55 mph is traveling the length of an entire football field without seeing the road.