Banning Cell Phone Use by Commercial Drivers

The Federal Government has proposed prohibiting commercial truck and bus drivers from using cell phones while behind the wheel.
The proposal is the latest move in Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's stepped-up campaign against distracted driving in which he has questioned cellphone use in passenger cars and "hands free" communications technology.

"Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cellphone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk," LaHood said in a statement.

Nearly 5,000 people were killed and another 500,000 were hurt in crashes of all vehicles involving a distracted driver in 2009, government safety figures show.

I have been a Commercial driver for 13 years. I have logged over one million miles in my career. Please make no mistake - this has NOTHING to do with improving safety. Inattentive drivers ARE GOING TO CRASH. No law will ever prevent that. If they're not 'distracted' by phones, they will be distracted by something else. You cannot legislate responsibility. This is about laying the foundation for the prosecution of drivers - more on that later.

I will be transparent here and admit that I use my cell phone while driving - a lot. I have a bluetooth headset that I use while I'm talking. Truck drivers have been in constant communication with someone outside their trucks since the first trucks took to the highways with the Citizen's Band (CB) Radio. If drivers are not distracted from telling lies over a HANDHELD radio microphone for the last 50 years, then they are not distracted by a hands-free telephone.

The Big Picture

The legal system got the taste of blood on their lips with the Tobacco lawsuits of the last decade. Now they have turned their teeth toward the trucking industry - "Big trucks, big bucks" Most national carriers are self-insured, and when big trucks crash they make a big mess that costs big money. There are countless stories of drivers being placed at fault for crashes that weren't of their doing because of 'log violations' or 'distraction.' One popular story is one of a driver that stopped in a truck stop, bought some smokes, a pop, and a snickers bar. He got back in the truck and was involved in an accident that was originally deemed not his fault. An officer was searching his truck and found the receipt for the snickers bar that was time -stamped. The time stamp did not match his logbook. He did not 'log' that stop (it mat have only taken 10 minutes to stop and make the purchase). Through the efforts of the lawyers, he was charged with being at fault because 'he shouldn't have been there.' Had he logged that stop, he wouldn't have been there for the car to hit. You make the call on that one.

Are there dangerous drivers on the road? Absolutely. Is this legislation going to do anything to change that? Absolutely not. People who are irresponsible, will be irresponsible regardless of how many laws and policies you write. Some will say that legislation like this will cause responsible people to conform. Well, those aren't the ones we're after, right?

If policies like this make you sleep better at night you need to get a teddy bear. If policies like this make you feel safer on the road you need to buy a tank. The best offence on the highway is a good defense. Stupid is not illegal, and I'm convinced that stupid is at an epidemic level in our land.
Posted on December 17, 2010 .