NPRM Calls for Complete Ban on Cell Phone Use

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The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a notice of proposed rulemaking that would ban the use of all hand-held cell phones by commercial vehicle drivers and interstate bus drivers.

According to the NPRM, “Drivers of CMVs: Restricting the Use of Cellular Phones,” using a hand-held device while driving can pose a higher safety risk than other activities, like eating, because “it involves all four types of driver distraction” — visual, manual, cognitive and auditory. The NPRM would prohibit commercial vehicle drivers, including school bus drivers that engage in interstate travel,  from “reaching for, holding, or dialing a mobile telephone” The driver must be ready to make a call before he starts driving. School bus transportation that crosses state lines for the purpose of home to school (or vice versa) transportation is exempt.

“I was a proffesonial (sic) driver for over 35 years and 4 million miles without a preventable accident,” stated one commenter on Regulations.gov. “Since I have retired and travel the [highways] on vacation I see many drivers with a cell phone glued to their ears. Please pass this bill and get the drivers back to attending to the task at hand (Safe Alert Driving).”

The NPRM also proposes new driver disqualification sanctions for those who fail to comply. Interstate motor carriers would also be prohibited from requiring or allowing their drivers to use cell phones. But, not all commenters applaud the feds move towards the restriction.

“Do something intelligent and prosecute people reading, eating, or writing while they are driving. As for the looking for the cellphone to answer a call, it is quite simple,” stated another commenter. “I keep the phone in my chest pocket at all times I am not at my desk. If I am in a truck, tractor, car, or even walking, I know exactly where my phone is, my eyes are never diverted from the road. Make it a law that all vehicle manufacter (sic) have places to put a phone that is within reach and prosecute people who don’t use the storage location or have to search for their phone.”

Initial comments on the NPRM are due on or before Feb. 22, 2011, with reply comments due on or before March 21, 2011.