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Enacting Laws,
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Improving Safety?
study questions effectiveness
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of cell phone bans
By Mike Bassett and Kelly Cargill Currently, 19 states have bans
Guest writers against text messaging while
driving. Montana does not
Text messaging controversy reared its restrict cell phone usage for
ugly head when the federal government drivers. However, the city of
announced a ban for truckers and bus Missoula banned texting while
drivers. Secretary of Transportation Ray driving, effective July 1, 2009.
LaHood notified the nation on January Fines range from $100 to $350.
26 that truckers and bus drivers were The mayor vetoed a cell phone
no longer allowed to send or receive ban that had been approved by
text messages while driving. Sparking city lawmakers.
further confusion and controversy over
cell phone safety was the release of
The Virginia Tech Transportation
a Highway Loss Data Institute study
Institute released the results of an
stating laws forbidding phone use while
18-month study in July 2009 that
driving did not result in a significant
involved placing cameras inside
decrease in vehicle crashes.
the cabs of more than 100 long
haul trucks, and recorded the
While the ban was predicted following drivers over a combined driving
a Distracted Driving Summit in early distance of three million miles. The
October 2009, the announcement study concluded that when drivers
came as a surprise leaving many were texting, their risk of crashing was
state Departments of Transportation 23 times greater than when not texting.
wondering how to move forward. Although this study focused on truck
driver’s stopping distance when driving
drivers, researchers found that in the
70 mph, reading an email added 36 feet,
During an interview with NPR on
moments before a crash or near crash,
and sending a text added 70 feet.
February 2, Sec. LaHood addressed
most drivers typically spent nearly five
the lack of results exposed by the HLDI
As employers continue to use cell
seconds looking at their devices. This
study. “We need good enforcement. We
phones to improve their businesses,
is enough time to cover more than
need good education,” Sec. LaHood
they cannot ignore findings that show
the length of a football field at typical
said. “We know that good laws and
the magnitude of the risk of being
highway driving speeds.
good enforcement have worked to get
involved in an accident when texting
drunk drivers off the road, and also Recent laboratory research conducted
while driving. The most important thing
to get people to buckle up. We know at the University of Utah supports
an employer can do to prevent texting
that enforcement works in those two Virginia Tech Transportation Institute’s
related accidents while protecting
instances, and we believe it will work in findings. This study used a sophisticated
their company and employees is to
the instance of getting cell phones out of driving simulator to examine college
implement an internal cell phone
the hand of people…” students and showed an eight times
policy. All employers, including private
greater crash risk when texting than
corporations, non-profits, government
Sec. LaHood’s announcement was
when not texting. Similar to Virginia
agencies, educational institutions, and
quickly followed with cheers of support
Tech’s findings, this study also
mass transit should implement cell
from American Trucking Associations’
concluded that drivers took their eyes
phone policies not only for their fleets
President and CEO Bill Graves. “Our
off the road for about five seconds when
and commercial drivers, but also for all
nation’s highways are the trucking
texting.
employees.
industry’s workplace, and we must
continue to make them safer for Additionally, Car and Driver Magazine
A cell phone policy will improve the
everyone’s benefit,” Graves said. conducted an experiment to show just
safety of all drivers on the road;
“To promote highway safety, and how dangerous driving and texting could
potentially limit employer liability in
further improve the trucking industry’s be. This experiment took place at a
an accident and free employees from
continually improving safety record deserted airstrip and showed that texting
feeling pressure to respond immediately
and that of all commercial vehicles, while driving had a bigger negative
when they are behind the wheel.
ATA supports DOT’s action to ban the impact on driver safety than being
use of handheld wireless devices by legally drunk (.08) because it slows Mike Bassett is a partner with The
commercial drivers to send or receive down a driver’s reaction time. While Bassett Firm located in Dallas,
text messages while driving.” being legally drunk added four feet to a Texas.
10 Roadwise | FebRuaRy/MaRch 2010 | www.mttrucking.com
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