President Obama has signed an Executive Order banning 4.5 million employees from texting while driving.
Whose employees? The federal government’s, including the military.
Federal workers are banned, effective immediately, from text messaging when they are behind the wheel of government vehicles and from texting in their own cars if they use government-issued phones or are on official business.
The order also encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to do the same.
The measure comes in the wake of a meeting in Washington of 300 federal and state officials to discuss growing safety concerns about cell phone use while driving.
Along with the federal employee ban, the Obama administration plans to ban texting by bus drivers and truckers who travel across state lines and may also make it illegal for them to use cell phones while driving, except in emergencies.
Some in the trucking industry are concerned about what effect this will have on the computers thousands of long-haul truckers use in their cabs to communicate with dispatchers and do other work.
However, both Federal Express and UPS already prohibit their drivers from using these devices or other hand-held communication devices while their vehicles are in motion.
When UPS trucks are moving, they can’t receive two-way messages, according to the company.
The District of Columbia and 18 states ban texting while driving to different degrees.
One option the federal government could use to encourage more states to enact these types of laws would be to threaten their federal highway funding. The federal government used that tactic to get states to lower the legal blood-alcohol limit while driving to .08 and to increase the drinking age to 21.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 11% of drivers on the road at any given moment are using hand-held cell phones.
The Harvard Center of Risk Analysis says cell phone use is contributing to 6% of all crashes a year, resulting in 2,600 deaths and 342,000 injuries.
The National Safety Council reports several hundred companies have banned employees from using their cell phones while driving.
What should government do – or not do – to regulate use of cell phones while driving? Let us know in the Comments Box below.