Earlier this year, the federal government banned commercial truck and bus drivers from texting while driving. The crackdown on using cell phones while driving may now go one or two steps further.
A newly proposed rule would prohibit drivers in commercial motor vehicles (CMV) from using hand-held cell phones.
Specifically, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposes prohibiting commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a CMV.
Drivers would face penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver’s license. Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use cell phones behind the wheel could face maximum fines of $11,000.
FMCSA research shows commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a crash. Drivers dialing a hand-held phone are six times more likely to crash.
The proposal also calls for comment on whether use of hands-free phones while driving a CMV should also be banned.
The wording of the proposed rule has some groups concerned.
Joe Rajkovacz, Director of Regulatory Affairs for the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, has concerns about the ban on reaching for a phone. Rajkovacz calls it “arbitrary and capricious,” adding “It opens up potential abuse on the part of law enforcement to use that as an ‘I gotcha’ against a driver. The law needs to be more specific than that.”
A 60-day comment period of the proposal ends Feb. 22, 2011.
Nearly 5,000 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009.
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