FOX Carolina is reporting that the National Transportation Safety Board is pushing to ban bus and truck drivers from using cell phones.
Our trucking accident attorneys in Asheville and Greenville know it is long past time for the federal government to act on this important issue. A year ago, the government banned bus and truck drivers from texting while driving. It was a start but did not go far enough in ensuring these professional drivers keep their eyes on the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 5,000 motorists a year are killed in accidents involving a distracted driver. And trucking accidents already account for about 1 in 9 of the nation's fatal accidents. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports 3,380 motorists were killed and more than 74,000 were injured in accidents with large trucks last year.
And the risk of North Carolina bus accidents continues to increase. Several high-profile bus accidents this summer have the federal government pushing bus safety. Low-fare carriers have come under particular fire.
The truth of the matter is there are all kinds of ways the government could increase safety. Making speed-limiting devices and data recorders mandatory is one option being discussed; better drug and alcohol testing; better tracking of hours-of-service rules and more limitations on prescription medications are all critical areas that need addressed.
But none of that makes much sense as long as the government is permitting drivers to barrel down the highway in 80,000 pound tractor-trailers while talking on a cell phone.
Safety advocates hail the proposal as the most sweeping safety improvement since mandatory seat belts. Many truckers are against the proposal, as you might imagine. They say the ban goes too far, especially since it would prohibit hands-free devices as well as those that are hand-held.
The NTSB made the endorsement after a fiery wreck in Kentucky killed the trucker and 10 motorists in a van on their way to a wedding. The government said the trucker was talking on his cell phone when he crossed through the median, over a cable barrier and slammed into the van.
The government has already issued such bans for aviation and ship operators.
"It may not be something that's widely embraced," said NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman. "This is not going to be popular. But, we're not here to be popular. We're here to do what needs to be done."
The NTSB has sent the proposal to all 50 states and to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Currently, truckers caught texting and driving face fines of up to $2,750. The DOT has already recommended a ban on hand-held devices, a final rule on that issue is expected yet this fall.
The American Trucking Association does not support a ban on hands-free devices, saying there was not enough evidence that hands-free devices created a distraction worthy of being outlawed.
The Governor's Highway Safety Association also questioned the science behind such a proposal, saying more information was needed before the issue could be presented to all 50 states.
In reality, there is a growing body of evidence and research that suggests hands-free cell phones are no safer; that the cognitive distraction of talking on a phone substantially increases the risk of an accident, whether the driver is using a hands-free or hand-held device.