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Rule to Ban Hand-Held Cell Phone Use

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WASHINGTON - As part of its campaign to put an end to the practice of distracted driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation today proposed a new safety regulation that would specifically prohibit interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV).

"Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.  "This proposed rule will go a long way toward keeping a driver's full attention focused on the road."  

The proposed Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule would prohibit commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a CMV.  Drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver's license (CDL) for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver's CDL after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use.

Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving would face a maximum penalty of $11,000. Approximately four million interstate commercial drivers would be affected by this proposal.

"We are committed to using every resource at our disposal to ensure commercial drivers and vehicles are operating safely at all times," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Implementation of this proposal would help make our roads safer and target a leading cause of distracted driving."

FMCSA research shows that using a hand-held cell phone while driving requires a commercial driver to take several risky steps. In particular, commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event. Drivers dialing a hand-held cell phone while driving increase their risk by six times. Many of the largest carriers, such as UPS, Covenant Transport, and Wal-Mart, already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones. In September 2010, FMCSA issued a regulation banning text messaging while operating a commercial motor vehicle.

Nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009. Distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research.  FMCSA is providing 60 days for the public to comment on this rulemaking.  The comment period begins once the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. The proposal and information about how to submit comments is:
www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/Mobile_phone_NPRM_12-7-10.pdf.

To learn more about the U.S. Department of Transportation's efforts to stop distracted driving, please visit www.distraction.gov.