September 14, 2011 in Business

Panel advises no trucker cell use

Endorsement follows Kentucky fatal crash
Brett Barrouquere Associated Press
 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – No cellphones while driving, period. That’s the rule the National Transportation Safety Board wants for the nation’s more than 2.8 million truckers and bus drivers.

The change proposed Tuesday would be among the most sweeping highway safety measures since the push for mandatory seat belts decades ago, but many truckers think it goes too far, especially because it would bar not only hand-held but hands-free devices.

The NTSB enthusiastically endorsed the ban after ruling on a fiery Kentucky wreck that killed a trucker and 10 people in a van on their way to a wedding. The board said the trucker was distracted by his hands-free cellphone.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said similar recommendations about phone use have already been made in aviation and for ship operators. CB radio use would not be affected.

“It may not be something that’s widely embraced. 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,” Hersman said.

The NTSB lacks the authority to make such regulations. It sent its recommendation to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and all 50 states for action.

The U.S. Department of Transportation bars commercial drivers from texting while driving, and violators are subject to civil penalties of up to $2,750. Some states ban everyone from using hand-held cellphones while driving.

The NTSB proposed in 2004 that the department prohibit commercial bus drivers from using cell phones in non-emergency situations while driving.

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