Semi-Dangerous? Truckers group says texting while driving is safe, necessary

Research shows that a driver can be as much as 23 times more likely to get into an accident if he or she is texting while driving. New legislation in Washington aims to ban texting while driving by forcing states to adopt the federal mandate or risk losing federal highway greenbacks. One group is fighting the legislation, and it's not teen drivers or multimedia addicts, it's our nation's truck drivers. Truckers, the guys who drive around in 18 wheelers which take 2-3 times as much road to stop when compared to the typical car, often have touch screen computers on the dashboard and keyboards on their laps. They use the multimedia tech to map routes and converse with dispatch, saving minutes (and money) in the hyper-competitive shipping business.

Drivers told The New York Times that they're all but forced to communicate with such computers, as pulling off the road to send a message can cost their companies $1.50 per minute, and the driver risks having his or her pay docked. Clayton Boyce, spokesman for the American Trucking Associations, called the bill "overkill," going so far as to say that banning such devices "won't improve safety." But safety advocates counter that the measure would effectively be underkill, and they have some stats to back up their argument: Heavy trucking deaths in the U.S. have steadily climbed over the past decade, as big rigs now account for 12% of all highway fatalities (4,808 deaths in 2007) versus 11% (4,777) in 1997 – in spite of the fact that passenger cars and trucks are now far safer than they have ever been.

Americans like low prices, and fast, efficient shipping helps keep costs in check. And at the same time, we like to be safe and sound as well, and truckers looking down at a keyboard while driving a 40-ton truck 60 mph just a few feet from strikes us as hazardous to our nation's health. Should truckers be able to text and use computers while driving? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section after the jump.

[Source: The New York Times | Image: Joe Raedle/Getty]

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