Truckers To Lose Cell-Phone Privilege. All Drivers Next?

Fatal accidents caused by distracted driving have government on a rampage

Federal regulators took a step toward banning cell-phone use in vehicles by recommending that all commercial vehicle drivers be forbidden to use the phones unless in cases of emergencies.

The National Transportation Safety Board, an advisory body, made the recommendation following an investigation of a 2010 Kentucky crash that killed 11 people. In that accident, a tractor trailer had jumped a grass median and collided with a 15-passenger church van. The driver of the truck was later found to have been making cell-phone calls prior to the accident and was on the phone when it occurred.

The Department of Transportaton is already considering new rules to ban all 3.7 million commercial drivers from talking on cellphones except in emergencies. Last year, the DOT banned those drivers from texting while driving.

The NTSB's statement seems sure to make the proposal law, and gives the DOT, which has been vocal in its support of a ban on cellphone use in all vehicles, more ammunition.

The NTSB previously recommended bans on cellphone use by newly licensed commercial drivers after an accident in 2002, as well as among bus drivers after a fatal collision in 2004 found to be caused by distracted driving on the part of the bus driver. Following an epic accident in 2008, the advisory body also recommended banning cellphone use for commercial railroad and marine operators.

In a rare twist, the American Trucking Associations, the trade group and lobby that usually battles regulations, said it agreed with the safety board's recommendations.

The ATA, back in 2009, said there should be a legislative ban on texting for all drivers, including passenger car drivers, and last year it said that hand-held cellphone use should also be banned among all drivers.

The DOT proposed a ban on cellphone use among truck drivers last December, and has been considering public comment on the issue. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood, who strongly favors a federal ban on all cellphone use by drivers, said, "The National Transportation Safety Board can speak with a loud voice, and we're very happy to have them on board."

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