Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hey Drivers, Don't Text!

It's no secret that DOT Secretary Ray LaHood has been reminding drivers everywhere to put down those devices and drive safely. At last autumn's Distracted Driving Summit, he promised that the federal government would do its part to ensure that our roadways would be more safe from distracted drivers.

During that event, President Obama issued an executive order restricted texting and cell phone use by federal employees (and recommending federal contractors do likewise).

Over the subsequent months, Secretary LaHood marshalled the resources of the US DOT to create a website,, to promote distraction-free driving.

One of Mr LaHood's commitments was to take regulatory action to help stamp out distracted driving, which has taken place this week.

Specifically, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the arm of the DOT that regulates much truck and bus safety, published a guidance today (Jan 27) specifying that texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle is henceforth considered an unsafe practice that is in violation of federal regulation. This guidance takes effect immediately.

The FMCSA guidance affects all truck and bus operators used in INTERSTATE service, as defined at 49 CFR Part 390 (in this rule, "buses" are all passenger-carrying vehicles designed to seat 8 or more passengers, including the driver). Most local transit and human services transportation operations that do not cross state lines are not covered by this particular rule, although an increasing number of state laws restrict texting and cell phone use by drivers of many or all vehicles.

In addition to the Secretary's announcement of this policy guidance, there has been a good deal of media attention to the topic of distracted driving.

Stay tuned .... The DOT is planning to promulgate official rules on this topic in the motor carrier and rail arenas, and has indicated a desire to have greater authority to regulate these practices in the public transit arena.

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