Federal agency recommends ban on use of cellphones by truckers
The National Transportation Safety Board on Sept. 13 proposed a ban on truckers and other commercial drivers using cellphones except in emergencies. The board made the proposal in the wake of a March 2010 crash that left 11 people dead; the wreck was caused by the driver of an 18-wheeler who had been talking and texting on his cellphone.
A major organization representing commercial truckers welcomed the board’s recommendation.
“Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, chairwoman of the safety board, says in a news release. “It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds.”
|Deborah A.P. Hersman is chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.|
At 5:14 a.m. on March 26, 2010, a tractor-trailer driven by 45-year-old Kenneth Laymon of Alabama veered out of the left lane of southbound Interstate 65 near Munfordville, Ky., crossed a 60-foot-wide median and eventually struck a passenger van. The truck driver and 10 of the 12 occupants of the van were killed.
Investigators determined Laymon used his cellphone for calls and text messages a total of 69 times while driving in the 24 hours before the deadly crash. The driver made four calls in the minutes leading up to the accident, making the last call at 5:14 a.m. — coinciding with when the truck left the highway.
“Because he was distracted from the driving task by the use of his cellular telephone at the time of the accident, the truck driver did not maintain control of his vehicle,” the safety board says. “The truck driver was fatigued at the time of the accident, which may have contributed to the distraction effects caused by the use of his cellular telephone.”
The safety board’s recommendation was made to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the U.S. trucking industry. A decision by the carrier safety agency is expected this fall.
Bill Graves, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations, says the trade group supports bans on the use of handheld cell phones for talking or texting by all motorists, not just commercial drivers. In a news release, Graves says his group does not back a prohibition on hands-free cellphone use because research shows that doesn’t increase crash risk and may even reduce it.
Graves says he hopes the cellphone proposal and other safety board recommendations “will lead to safer highways for all motorists, including professional truck drivers for whom the road is their workplace.”