Feds weigh cell phone ban for bus, truck drivers

Sep 24, 2009 By JOAN LOWY , Associated Press Writer

(AP) -- Safety investigators told federal regulators three years ago that it was dangerous for bus drivers to talk on cell phones while driving and recommended a ban.

The National Transportation Safety Board put that recommendation on its list of most important safety measures. Industry and safety groups had no objections.

Yet the regulatory agency that would write new rules on cell phone use by commercial , the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has done little more than study the issue.

Now, after several high-profile accidents that focused public attention on using cell phones on the road, the Obama administration has decided to act on the issue, which was left hanging by the Bush administration.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will convene a two-day summit next week on distracted driving and plans to announce actions to address cell phone use by bus and truck drivers, said spokeswoman Jill Zuckman.

The NTSB's recommendation was prompted by a 2004 accident in which the driver of a motorcoach carrying students on a trip to Washington became so engrossed in a cell phone conversation that he failed to notice signs that said the height of an upcoming bridge was nearly 2 feet less than the height of the bus. The bus slammed into the underside of the bridge, shearing off the roof and injuring 11 passengers.

"He drove that bus right into that bridge. It was like a can opener - it just peeled the top back," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "If you could see the picture, you would be shocked that there weren't fatalities."

The safety board recommended that the motor carrier administration prohibit commercial bus drivers from talking on cell phones except in emergencies and that it encourage states to do the same for school bus drivers.

The agency responded that it would study whether a new rule was needed and that the study would include whether cell phone use by all commercial drivers, including truck drivers, should be prohibited. It hoped to have answers last October.

An official for the motor carrier administration declined comment when contacted by The Associated Press.

Research clearly shows that cell phone use distracts drivers, safety experts said.

"When you are texting and talking on the phone, you might be going through the motions of doing what you need to be doing, but your head is not in the game," Hersman said.

As research has mounted, industry's resistance to regulation has faded.

"I don't know of any motorcoach operator that tolerates drivers using cell phones for any purpose unless they're pulling over for an emergency," said Victor Parra, president and chief executive of United Motorcoach Association, which represents tour bus operators.

Pete Pantuso, president of the American Bus Association, said a ban "is certainly something we do not oppose at all."

The American Trucking Associations is neutral on a ban on cell phone use by truck drivers until they see the wording of a proposal, but "we think cell phones and other electronic equipment should have some policies and regulations on them to prevent their misuse," said spokesman Clayton Boyce.

Even the wireless industry, formerly opponents of restrictions, supports a texting ban and is neutral on restricting use by drivers.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia prohibit school bus drivers from using cell phones while driving. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws making texting while driving illegal.

A group of Democratic members of Congress introduced a bill this summer requiring states to ban texting or e-mailing while operating a moving vehicle or lose 25 percent of their annual federal highway funding. It would be patterned after Congress' requirement that states adopt a national drunken driving ban.

---

On the Net:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/

©2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Explore further: Privacy groups take 2nd hit on license plate data

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NTSB restricts employee cell-phone use

Sep 08, 2009

(AP) -- The federal safety agency that investigates transportation accidents is banning texting and talking on cell phones by its employees while driving on government business.

Ford backs bill to ban texting while driving

Sep 11, 2009

(AP) -- Ford said Thursday it backs federal legislation pressuring states to ban texting while driving in an effort to reduce driver distractions that could lead to accidents.

LaHood calls summit on distracted driving

Aug 04, 2009

(AP) -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said Tuesday he will convene a summit of experts to figure out what to do about driver cell phone use and texting, practices that studies - and a growing number of accidents - ...

Hold the Phone

Dec 01, 2006

A new law taking effect in North Carolina today (Dec. 1) is putting the brakes on cell phone use by teen drivers. But do teenagers yapping on the phone behind the wheel pose a bigger safety risk than other ...

Texting increases crash risk 23 times: study

Jul 28, 2009

Text messaging behind the wheel increases the risk of a crash or a near crash by 23 times, and is far more dangerous than talking on a cell phone while driving, according to a report released Tuesday.

Recommended for you

Privacy groups take 2nd hit on license plate data

Sep 19, 2014

A California judge's ruling against a tech entrepreneur seeking access to records kept secret in government databases detailing the comings and goings of millions of cars in the San Diego area via license plate scans was ...

Scots' inventions are fuel for independence debate

Sep 17, 2014

What has Scotland ever done for us? Plenty, it turns out. The land that gave the world haggis and tartan has produced so much more, from golf and television to Dolly the Sheep and "Grand Theft Auto."

White House backs use of body cameras by police

Sep 16, 2014

Requiring police officers to wear body cameras is one potential solution for bridging deep mistrust between law enforcement and the public, the White House said, weighing in on a national debate sparked by the shooting of ...

Chinese city creates cellphone sidewalk lane

Sep 15, 2014

Taking a cue from an American TV program, the Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too engrossed in messaging and tweeting to watch where they're going.

Coroner: Bitcoin exchange CEO committed suicide

Sep 15, 2014

A Singapore Coroner's Court has found that the American CEO of a virtual currency exchange committed suicide earlier this year in Singapore because of work and personal issues.

User comments : 0