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US wants texting ban for bus, truck drivers; takes to Web for online rule-making

DoT takes texting ban further, wants public involved in e-Rulemaking

By Layer 8 on Wed, 03/31/10 - 9:49am.

The US Department of Transportation wants to not only ban texting by commercial bus and truck drivers, its also wants the public to get more closely involved developing transportation regulations via a new public Web site.  

On the texting issue, the department today announced a federal rule that aims to specifically prohibit texting by interstate commercial truck and bus drivers. The proposed rule would make permanent an interim ban announced in January 2010 that applied existing safety rules to the texting issue. 

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Commercial drivers, including those required to have "commercial driver's licenses," could face fines or operating disqualification if convicted of texting while driving, the department stated.  This rule would not affect talking on cell phones, or using devices like GPS or in-cab fleet management systems, the department is looking onto regulations about those activities as well. 

President Obama has already signed an Executive Order directing federal employees not to engage in text messaging while driving government-owned vehicles or with government-owned equipment. 

Research shows that drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting.  At 55 miles per hour, this means that the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 

Drivers who text while driving are more than 20 times more likely to get in an accident than what it calls non-distracted drivers.  Because of the safety risks associated with the use of electronic devices while driving, FMCSA is also working on additional regulatory measures that will be announced in the coming months. 

The texting regulation will likely be the main topic of conversation via a new online source for public input.  The department said it would partner with Cornell University to increase public involvement and collaboration in the rulemaking process.  The Cornell e-Rulemaking Initiative (CeRI) partnership will make the federal regulatory process accessible to the public through Regulation Room, an online public participation environment where people can learn about and discuss proposed federal regulations and provide effective feedback to the Department.  

Citizens can find more information on the Cornell online effort and provide comments on proposed rules at regulationroom.org over the next 30 days.  The Department of Transportation encourages participation in this rulemaking through Regulation Room, but the public may also submit comments to the DOT docket at regulation.gov. 

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8

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