A new ban enacted by the federal government immediately bans all bus drivers and all drivers or larger commercial trucks from text messaging while driving. The new ban aims to reduce the serious collisions, bus accidents, trucking accidents, and pedestrian accidents which have been attributed to texting while driving. Under the new ban, any bus drivers or truck drivers found texting while driving may face fees and penalties of up to $2,750.
The ban is the latest in a string of legislation and news items which has shone light on the problems associated with texting and driving. As of December, all drivers operating federal vehicles were banned from texting while driving. Ten states as well as the District of Columbia have made it illegal to text and drive. The senate is considering new laws which would force all states to ban texting while driving. States who do not comply would stand to lose federal funding under the new laws.
As the media has widely reported, the link between texting and truck and car accidents is a close one. According to a recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, texting truck drivers were 23.2 times more likely to be in a truck accident, when compared with drivers who were not distracted. The same study found that truck drivers were 5.9 times as likely to have a truck accident while talking on a cell phone and 6.7 times as likely to be in an accident while reaching for a cell phone or mobile device.
A number of influential groups and organizations have already tried to change popular notions of texting and driving. This month, The Oprah Winfrey show featured the dangers of texting and driving and pleaded with viewers to stop the practice. The AAA and other groups have also called for drivers to put down mobile devices while driving. The use of mobile devices is being referred to as “distracted driving” and it refers to any use of a mobile device while driving. There is a growing movement to make distracted driving not only illegal but socially unacceptable as well.
Many fleets and trucking companies have already banned texting or distracted driving, but the new legislation will likely make even more bus drivers and truck drivers put down their mobile devices. It is possible that drivers found in violation of the new law will face penalties from their employers as well as from the law, although trucking companies have not spoken extensively to the media about their own efforts to crack down on distracted driving.
While most people approve of the new legislation, a new study may have some people raising eyebrows. Released this week, a report by the Highway Loss Data Institute has found that texting laws and bans do not have a significant impact on crash rates. The Highway Loss Data Institute, associated with and funded by insurance companies, looked at the accident rates of insured cars in the months before and after bans of handheld devices in cars went into effect. The study found that while use of handheld devices dropped after a ban, the rate of accidents did not increase with it.