In a ground-breaking move, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling for a ban on all cell phone use by commercial drivers in an effort to reduce trucking accidents. The NTSB’s recommendation would even include a ban on the use of hands-free devices as well as texting and other cellular messaging functions.
The NTSB proposed the ban at a hearing in Washington after ruling a crash, resulting in the death of 11 people, was caused by a truck driver on his cell phone.
The investigator reports that the driver of the 18-wheeler had just dialed his cell phone and then panicked after realizing he’d driven onto the median. Instead of steering out of the danger zone he slammed on the brakes and veered into oncoming traffic, smashing head-on into a van.
The truck driver and 10 people in the van were killed in the crash. Two young children strapped into their child seats were the only survivors.
Role of the NTSB
The NTSB does not have the power to create new laws or to change existing laws. The traffic safety agency simply puts proposals forward to the state legislatures and to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in order to effectuate change on state and national levels.
The NTSB’s proposal would cover commercial drivers who operate trucks, buses or tractor-trailers. Similar restrictions have been encouraged in shipping and in aviation. The NTSB chairman recognized that these restrictions may not be popular but that the organization was created to make travel safer.
Opposition to the Proposal
This proposal is not a popular among big rig operators and it may find difficulty getting support in many states. An official representing the Governor’s Highway Association recognizes that drivers shouldn’t operate machinery while being distracted by a cell phone but that many states are not ready to use laws to try and change the behavior and address the problem.