NTSB Proposed Cell Phone Ban Would Impact California Commercial Drivers

Public sentiment against distracted driving continues to grow, as another federal regulatory agency recommends that commercial drivers be banned from using cell phones while behind the wheel. Recently, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a recommendation that commercial truckers and bus drivers should be banned from using mobile devices while driving in an effort to reduce distraction, and thus trucking accidents.

The recent proposal would be non-binding but it would impose restrictions on handheld devices, and would impact thousands of drivers of commercial vehicles in California. The current ban on mobile devices only prohibits text messaging behind the wheel. With its referral, the Board released a statement explaining that “commercial drivers must focus their attention on operating their large, heavy commercial vehicles rather than switching their attention between driving tasks and telephone use.”

The action follows a public outcry for a national cell phone ban for all commercial truck and bus drivers after a horrific crash in Mumfordville, Kentucky last year took the lives of 11 people, including the truck driver who allegedly took his eyes off the road to use his cell phone.

After concluding their research, NTSB investigators determined that distracted driving was the primary cause of the accident. They found that one driver had used his phone 69 times in the 24 hours before a crash to place calls and send text messages. In the midst of a phone call right before the crash, his truck crossed a 60-foot-wide median and through a cable barrier system, striking a passenger van in oncoming traffic. Investigators determined that he was at fault because he did not apply his brakes and did not take evasive action from oncoming traffic to avoid the collision.

If adopted, the rule would make California roads safer, as thousands of commercial drivers would be impacted. Because of their sheer size, trucks and buses are more likely to cause severe (if not fatal) injuries if they are involved in accidents with passenger cars.

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