Ray LaHood, the U.S. transportation secretary, today announced a new ban on texting by drivers of trucks, large buses and other commercial vehicles.
“We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,” LaHood said in a press release. “This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving.”
The new ban takes effect immediately, outawing the use of phones and other wireless devices to send or receive e-mail and other text messages. It applies to interstate truckers and to commercial bus or van drivers who carry more than 8 passengers.
Drivers who text while driving commercial vehicles may be subject to civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750.
"Our regulations will help prevent unsafe activity within the cab,” said Anne Ferro, administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). “We want to make it crystal clear to operators and their employers that texting while driving is the type of unsafe activity that these regulations are intended to prohibit."
Federal research shows that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting.
Also at today's telephone press conference on the new rules, The News & Observer asked LaHood if he plans to announce high-speed rail grants on Thursday. His answer:
"Soon. Soon. Very soon. Thank you for your interest in high-speed rail."