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Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood personally announces the Final Rule banning texting while driving a CMV.
Banning texting while driving, an issue that has become a personal quest for Secretary of Tranportation Ray LaHood, reached another milestone on Tuesday as the Secretary personally announced the Final Rule banning texting while driving a Commercial
Motor Vehicle (CMV).
LaHood’s Pet Project
Preventing distracted driving incidents is quickly becoming the key issue that will define LaHood’s tenure at the Department of Transportation (DOT). LaHood has dedicated a great deal of his time to the issue, recruiting celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey to help drive home the message that texting behind the wheel is unsafe.
The new regulations were announced at this years National Distracted Driving Summit. LaHood announced the regulations while giving a speech explaining the effectiveness of the regulations and plans that had been enacted as a result of last year’s summit — the first of its kind.
“We are taking action on a number of fronts to address the epidemic of distracted driving in America,” said Secretary LaHood. “With the help of the experts, policy-makers, and safety advocates we’ve assembled here, we are going to do everything we can to put an end to distracted driving and save lives.”
Is This Really A Problem?
While some have questioned the need for regulations or for the level of attention that Secretary LaHood has given this issue, the statistics don’t lie. In 2009, nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research, distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009.
What Exactly is Being Banned?
The Final Rule included a fairly broad definition of the term ‘texting’.
Texting means manually entering alphanumeric text, or reading text from an electronic device.
This action includes, but is not limited to, short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a World Wide Web page, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or electronic text entry for present or future communication.
The breadth of this definition should close any loopholes that the ticketed might attempt to exploit. Don’t — for example — tell a police officer you were emailing on a BlackBerry, not texting on a phone.
What About My Other Electronic Devices?
In a nod to practicality, the ban does have a number of exemptions. Essentially, the list of allowed devices and methods of communication are those that the trucking industry in particular rely on to perform its daily tasks. As such:
Texting does not include:
- Reading, selecting, or entering a telephone number, an extension number, or voicemail retrieval codes and commands into an electronic device for the purpose of initiating or receiving a phone call or using voice commands to initiate or receive a telephone call;
- Inputting, selecting or reading information on a global positioning system or navigation system; or
- Using a device capable of performing multiple functions (e.g. fleet management
systems, dispatching devices, smart phones, citizens band radios, music players, etc.) for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited in part 392.
The DOT consulted with major industry players to craft these exemptions. Previous attempts at curbing distracted driving have descended into confusion. The most notable problem came in 2009, when the State of Arizona unilaterally declared that all laptops with access to the internet were technically televisions and were therefore banned. The Federal DOT was forced to step in in that case after an outcry from the industry.