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Ban Commercial Drivers from Using Cell Phones NTSB Urges

Posted on September 19, 2011

This week, the National Transportation Safety Board issued a press release calling for a ban on cell phone use by commercial drivers. Citing a case in which the driver of an 18-wheel semi truck likely caused a crash that killed 11 people in Kentucky because he was on his cell phone, the agency believes mobile phones are dangerous distractions.

“Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways,” said NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman in the press release. “It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds.”

Last year, near Munfordville, Kentucky, a 45-year-old man who was driving a truck-tractor semitrailer swerved off the left lane of southbound Interstate 65, crossed over a 60-foot-wide median, hit and rode over a cable barrier, and entered the northbound lanes where he hit a 15-passenger van. The truck driver and 10 of the 12 people in the van died. According to investigators, the truck driver had used his cell phone for calls and text messages an incredible total of 69 times while he was driving over the 24 hours before the collision. In the minutes that preceded the crash, the truck driver made four calls, with the last call occurring at the time the truck jumped the median and crashed into the passenger van.

The NTSB also found that the median barrier—which was fairly new and had been emplaced because of a prior fatal accident involving another median crossing on the same section of that interstate—added to the severity of the crash because the median was not designed to redirect or contain a vehicle as large as the truck that caused the passenger van accident. According to the NTSB, median crossover accidents that involve large vehicles are so deadly, the agency made recommendations for appropriate median barriers on roads were high numbers of commercial vehicles travel.

The NTSB’s moves are good ones to protect motorists on the road, and appropriately designed barriers are certainly helpful. The proposed ban on cell phone use by commercial drivers is another great move to send a clear message that operating a vehicle should require the full attention of the driver. We hope that all drivers will exercise judgment and understand that no one should talk or text while driving.

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