Driver Distraction: New Presidential Text-Messaging-While-Driving Ban
President Obama’s new ban on text messaging behind the wheel of government vehicles and texting in personal vehicles if using government-issued phones or on official business is an important warning to motorists to the dangers of distracted driving.
Federal employees will not be allowed to text while driving, according to an executive order signed Wednesday night by President Obama.
Department of Transportation Secretary Ray H. LaHood on Thursday announced the measures aimed at curbing what he called a deadly epidemic of distracted driving.
The order covers federal employees when they are using government-provided cars or cellphones and when they are using their own phones and cars to conduct government business.
Separately, the federal government plans to ban text messaging by bus drivers and truckers who travel across state lines, and may also preclude them from using cellphones while driving, except in emergencies.
Tragically, distracted driving claims thousands of lives each year. Texting is becoming more and more popular with both teens and adults, and many of those teens who grew up texting are now getting behind the wheel as inexperienced – and distracted – drivers.
Last year, 5,870 people died and 515,000 were injured nationally in crashes linked to distracted driving – often due to the increasing number of drivers who juggle cell phones, BlackBerries, and other gadgets.
Drivers who talk on cell phones are four times as likely to crash, regardless of whether they’re using a hands-free device, studies show. In fact, a yakking driver is just as much a road hazard as one who is legally drunk. Texting poses even greater risks, since motorists have to take their eyes off the road.
It’s not just cell phones and text messages. The availability and variety of in-car gadgets continues to grow, and with it the potential for distracting drivers long enough to reduce reaction time and rob drivers of that critical second or two that could mean the difference between accident avoidance or tragedy.