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4/15/2010 14:23

While I believe the spirit of the rule would allow for flexibility with respect to phone calls and/or texting while the vehicle is not in a lane of traffic AND is not moving, I believe the intent of the rule should be clear and simple – DO NOT ENGAGE IN PHONE CALLS AND/OR TEXTING WHILE OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE.

If the cost of injury or death isn’t enough to deter drivers, then perhaps imprisonment, steep fines, or awards for injury/death/damages or any combination of these will help greatly reduce the number of accidents caused by inattention due to cell phone calls and/or texting.

I’m realistic enough to know that 100% will not be achieved. However, for those who think they can beat the odds/flout the law, the price should be steep when the Piper demands his due.

Again, the simplest of questions should quickly end the debate of excuses – “while operating a motor vehicle, is any cell phone call or text message worth the risk of injury or death to yourself or other people?”

4/14/2010 15:05

I find it iteresting that most drivers think they’re able to talk or text and drive safely at the same time. I guess the MetroLink train crash in Southern California that killed over 20 people – you know the one I’m referring to, where the train engineer was texting – doesn’t count since he was in a train and not a motorized vehicle. I read somewhere that within the next five years, car manufacturers are going to be building cars that won’t allow drivers to talk and/or text and drive. And on a scale of 1 to 10, aren’t 99.99999% of those phone calls next to “totally unimportant”?

Technology should not be used as a crutch to make up for lack of planning. If a CMV breaks down or needs some other kind of assistance, than fine. A BRIEF communication is all that’s needed. Cell phones and texting should not be utilized to occupy the “dead time” between fueling/rest/meal stops. Those are the times to take care of those “ALL IMPORTANT” phone calls and text messages.

A person driving a motor vehicle should be doing just that – driving the motor vehicle. Let me put it in black and white (or yellow and white, as the case may be). ALL drivers are governed by paint (lane markers) and light (Red, Green, and Yellow). And why do we obey these? The answer is simple. THE CONSEQUENCES ARE ALMOST ALWAYS SEVERE AND IMMEDIATE! I don’t believe any cell phone call and/or text message is worth dying for!

    4/14/2010 16:04

    Thanks for your comment. How well do you think this rule addresses the dangers you identify with texting while driving?

4/10/2010 02:35

Quote: ” CMV Commercial Motor Vehicle drivers who text were 23 times more likely to have a “safety critical event” than non-texters.”End Quote
While I find this statistic interesting, since this is a rule FMCSA is trying to shove on CMV operators, since that is their only jurisdiction, multiple other studies have shown, that as a whole, any driver that is distracted by texting is anywhere from 20 to 50% more likely to have a critical incident, then non-texting drivers. Other studies have also shown, that in incident involving a CMV and a non-CMV, that over 80% of the time, the non-CMV operator is at fault. But, because the general motoring public would scream murder and boot the congressman and senator out of office at the next election if they messed with their cell phones and texting priviledge, the government as a whole, will only pick on the one segment of highway users that they have ultimate jurisdiction over, and the is CMV operators. Note for those not in the know, the federal government has very limited power, if any at all, over the general motoring public. Laws and Enforcement of those laws on the General public falls on the individual states.
While there are some bad actors as they say in the trucking industry, the majority are safer and more concious of their surroundings then the average general driver.

4/8/2010 15:27

In 2004,… the driver failed to move out of the low-clearance lane while talking on a cellphone.” This “accident” happened in 2004! He was TALKING on a CELLPHONE!
IMO, “Turn Off Cell B/4 Driving!” should have become law long B/4 NOW!! All these years have gone by, hundreds of LIVES have been lost, & our society is just NOW starting to work on this issue? AND we think we need to start with small steps like banning TEXTING (& sometimes in just commercial vehicles?)?

SOMEHOW, we NEED to make “Turn Off Cell B/4 Driving!” become as common as fastening our seatbelts. The sooner, the better & the more lives will be saved.

The quickest, easiest solution is to take the “Click It or Ticket” laws already in force (after much hard work in the ’60′s) & simply ADD the provision “Click Off Cell!”

Since, in reality, I know the government can’t (or won’t) do anything in a simple, easy, straight-forward manner, I offer the next best solution: EACH of us MUST spread this important safety message to AS MANY DRIVERS as we possibly can, as QUICKLY as we can, in order to make our roads safer for ourselves & our loved ones TODAY!

To help each of you do so, I offer this fun, inexpensive, quick, effective answer to reaching those people that THINK THEY are in the 2% – 2 1/2% of drivers who MAY be able to SAFELY(?) drive while talking on a cell phone:

Buy 1 pkg. of Avery 5260 labels, go to this site

http://myplace.frontier.com/~DriveSafely/

Print out 24 pages x 30 = 720 “Turn Off Cell B/4 Driving!” stickers to stick directly to cell phones, drivers’ side visors, to wear; to share 1 @ a time, in strips of 10, or in sheets of 30; or to give to children so they can participate in this safety campaign by giving stickers to neighbors, friends & their parents, & their teachers. Be sure to save the final page of 30 to print out the site directions so others can go print their OWN stickers!

In this way EACH one of you can reach 720 people PLUS 30 x 720 = 21,600 MORE! THINK about this: each of THOSE can do that, too!!

We WILL save lives NOW! Please don’t wait for the government to do this for you…

To help more: On Facebook join group Drive Safely: Don’t Use Your Cell Phone While Driving (NOT the same as Drive Safely, another group I joined) or see Facebook PAGE: Turn Off Cell B/4 Driving.

If you have read this far, I know you are interested in this issue. Now please, DO SOMETHING to stop these unsafe conditions on our roads B/4 we lose MORE people to what we can NOT call “ACCIDENTS” as they ARE PREVENTABLE!!

THANK YOU for ANYTHING you choose to do to help! Have a SAFE DAY!!

    4/8/2010 22:01

    A driver in California recently caused an accident because he spilled his coffee. Another driver almost wrecked because he was trying to light a cigarette. The bottom line is that ANY distraction while driving a car can cause an accident. Where do we draw the line? Also, there are millions of people out there who are completely capable of using their cell phone AND driving, at the same time. Are we proposing that they should be punished, for the inabilities of others? For people who spend much of their time in the car, this time might be their only chance to communicate with loved ones, do business, or make important calls. If they are physically capable to use their phones safely while driving, why restrict their freedoms?

    4/8/2010 23:49

    It’s true that any distraction can cause an accident. The agency decided that texting was particularly unsafe, in part on the basis of the VTTI study that we reference lower on the page. Click the graphic to get a sense of the safety risks associated with different activities.
    A question: do you think that this rule imposes an undue burden on personal communication? What alternative restrictions on texting, if any, would you propose to impose on professional drivers?

4/6/2010 16:40

I am an advocate of “Turn Off Cell B/4 Driving!” & have been since 1/13/10.
In this short period of time, I’ve learned that accomplishing this nationwide will be slow & difficult. If only it would be as easy as taking the seatbelt “Click It or Ticket” laws passed in the 1960’s & adding “Click Off Cell!”!
We need to encourage drivers to look at the National Safety Council’s White Paper found at http://www.nsc.org/safety_road/Distracted_Driving/Pages/CognitiveDistraction
Any driver that glanced at this with “heart” (i.e. w/eyes open & willing to understand) would never drive while talking on a cell phone again. Every excuse I’ve ever heard a driver use when he/she THINKS “I am in the special 2-2.5% who can do this multitasking!” is blown apart because in a clear, scientific explanation the report shows the human brain is NOT CAPABLE of driving while talking on a cell phone.
Even the old “I can walk while chewing gum!” excuse is covered on page 7: Sure you really can because two different parts of the brain are being used; driving while talking on a cell phone requires the SIMULTANEOUS use of the SAME PARTS of the brain! You’ve heard this warning many times: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS!!
All legislators should be required to look at this report BEFORE VOTING on Distracted Driving issues.

    4/6/2010 17:57

    Welcome to Regulation Room.
    The link for the NSC study mentioned in the post appears broken. Is there somewhere else we should look?

    Update: Here is a link to the NSC White Paper: http://bit.ly/9w7L7R

4/2/2010 21:41

I can’t offer hard statistics, but I can tell you anecdotally that our members (state bicycle & pedestrian federation) consider texting while driving to be extremely dangerous behavior.

4/2/2010 20:21

As far as implementing a corporate policy against operating electronic devices while driving a company vehicle, once you are out of sight of your supervisor, without enforcement, many employees are still just as likely to open up their laptop and pick up their cell phone.

Enforcement can come from various sources – national, state or local government (Patrol Officers), your supervisor. Another way to look at aiding enforcement is distraction prevention. By utilizing technological solutions such as GPS based software that prohibits use while vehicle is moving. Such programs exist for both laptops and cell phones.

Corporate liability is an issue here and unfortunately, employees can not always be trusted to follow the rules. By installing mandatory software on these devices, you can control their operation and thereby reduce driver distraction levels from electronic devices.

ddt
4/2/2010 19:08

In my prior comments, I meant to write “effective marketing by interested parties.” It has been a long week.

ddt
4/2/2010 19:03

I agree that the law should apply to all drivers. Nonetheless, this is a good start. Whether or not the law is readily and easily enforced does not negate its value. Besides providing punitive measures for disobedience, the law also provides guidance about what society expects. So the statement of our expectations that no one shall engage in the distracting behaviors of text messaging while driving serves as fair warning. The inclusion of penalties for disobedience tells everyone about our degree of seriousness. The stiffer the penalties, the more serious we are. Furthermore, the difficulty of proactive enforcement does not devalue the consequential enforcement. In other words, although it may be difficult to effectively catch drivers in the act of text messaging, the ability of forensics to determine if text messaging was a factor in a traffic accident or violation has tremendous value especially when a law exists to issue a suitable penalty. After a significant number of citations are issued, and horror stories make the news, the word will travel that text messaging while driving has significant negative consequences. Usually its the combination of a law with teeth, effective marketing by interested policies, and a few significant horror stories that brings about the desired change in societal behavior. This was the formula for the transformation in society’s attitude towards and use of seat belts. The first step is the implementation of a well-written law with teeth. So I support the passing of a law that bans text messaging while driving as long as it has clear guidelines and suitable penalties. I wish it would apply to all drivers, but I understand the reasons for why the federal government is focusing on commercial drivers.

4/2/2010 10:59

Thank you for the link. Now a follow-up question.

How can 46% of “near misses” be calculated into the equation?

A “near miss” is not an accident.

    4/2/2010 13:55

    On page 14 of the VTTI study, the researchers explain how they came up with this data: they outfitted heavy trucks with both video cameras and a Data Analysis Reduction Tool that tracked driving behavior. Using these instruments, they were able to track “near misses.” I hope that answers your question.

4/1/2010 14:08

Texting should definitely be banned and the ban strictly enforced.

Far too many people are killed and seriously injured on our roads and streets and it is become clear that driver inattention is one of the top contributing factors.

Other countries are having far greater success in reducing the number of driving related injuries and fatalities and one reason is they are very serious about removing the root causes of crashes and injuries, like texting while driving and drunk driving.

3/31/2010 22:04

I don’t dispute the distraction factor. 10 Minutes on any highway in the country should offer enough proof for all but the most obtuse.

What I object to is the singling out of any particular group of drivers as the focus of another un-enforceable law. (or, shall we say, really only enforceable after the fact)

Truckers already face a huge pile of regulations that apply only to them, and not to other drivers on the road. In most cases, these regulations are at least tangentally appropriate given the nature of the vehicle driven.

In this case, however, the activity in question is one engaged in by drivers off all classes of vehicle. It seems to me to be more appropriate for the regulation or non-regulation to come at the state level, and cover ALL vehicle operators.

Further, acceptance of this as an FMCSA rule immediately also brings up the question: how would this be enforced? Short of stationing a DOT officer in the cab of every truck, it can’t be done – except as an after-the-fact determination via investigation into an accident.

In other words, such a rule will have little to no effect on highway safety, and will be most likely show an effect only in the post-collision legal proceedings.

    4/1/2010 01:13

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    For more information about why FMCSA has proposed to imposes regulations against commercial drivers, please see our next post called “Which Drivers are Covered.” After reading through this material, let the community know if your opinion has changed.

    As to your comment about enforcement, you’ve identified one of the most difficult questions about this proposed regulation. Feel free to continue to discuss this question in the post called “Who & How of Enforcement.”

3/31/2010 19:51

Personally, I don’t think there should be a law about txting while driving. The law are already on the books for injuring other people and their property. The law enforcers have more important things to do. There are REAL criminals in this country that don’t get very enough attention.

3/31/2010 19:16

I would be interested in knowing why the DOT decided to start with Trucks and Buses?

When reports have shown recently that Trucks are at their all time low in fatalities.

Also, where is the data showing exactly how VTTI came to the conclusion that truck drivers are 23 more times to have an accident while reading or sending text messages?

    3/31/2010 20:15

    Welcome to Regulation Room. You can find the VTTI study through the Agency Documents page or by going here: http://ow.ly/1thY5
    Thanks.

Texting "What are the risks"

Agency Proposal
By the Regulation Room team based on the NPRM
Agency Documents
1 8

The Overview:

If the thought of drivers doing 65 mph on the interstate while reading their email or sending text messages makes you cringe, you’ll want to know more about a proposed new federal regulation. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration The agency proposing the EOBR rule (FMCSAFederal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule)) has just released a draft rule to control texting by commercial motor vehicle Any vehicle owned or used by a business (CMVCommercial Motor Vechicles) drivers. FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) is in charge of safety regulation for more than 7 million truck and bus operators nationwide. Texting, according to the agency, is a particularly dangerous form of distracted driving: In one recent study, CMV Commercial Motor Vechicles drivers who text were 23 times more likely to have a “safety critical event” than nontexters.

FMCSA wants your input. A texting ban might seem a “no brainer,” but coming up with a clear, fair, and effective rule is harder than it first looks. For the next 15 days, Regulation Room users will be learning about and discussing the issues:

  • What are the risks of texting? (Today’s topic)
  • Which drivers would the new rule cover? (It’s complicated)
  • What behavior would be prohibited? (More than you think of as texting)
  • What’s the plan for consequences? (Just how do you enforce a texting ban?)
  • What’s the rule likely to cost?  (Did FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) get the numbers right, especially for small companies?)

After the discussion, you can help put together a summary to go to the agency and, if you think there’s still more to say, join other people in writing additional comments to FMCSA.

2 4

The Details:

Why start with texting? The increasing use of cell phones and other electronic devices by drivers as well as passengers has focused national attention on the growing problem of distracted driving. For FMCSA (the agency in the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOTDepartment of Transportation) responsible for CMV Commercial Motor Vechicles safety), this rulemaking is the first step in addressing the problem for the millions of truckers, bus drivers, and other CMV Commercial Motor Vechicles operators within its jurisdiction. (We’ll talk about which drivers are, and aren’t, covered by the proposed rule in our next post.) In its official Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRMNotice of Proposed Rulemaking: the official document announcing and explaining the proposed rule) FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) explained that texting involves all three major types of distraction: visual, physical, and cognitive (mental). The texter’s eyes are off the road, his/her hands are off the wheel, and his/her mental focus is on something besides driving.

In the agency’s view, this makes texting an especially dangerous form of distraction. The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (a group of experts from the motor carrier A person providing motor vehicle transportation for compensation. The term includes a motor carrier’s agents, officers and employees industry, safety groups, and law enforcement agencies set up to advise FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) on safety issues) agrees: Its March 2009 report on motor carrier A person providing motor vehicle transportation for compensation. The term includes a motor carrier’s agents, officers and employees safety urged FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) to adopt an anti-texting rule as part of broader regulation against the problem of distracted driving. According to the NPRM, FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) is planning additional rulemakings on other uses of cell phones and on electronic devices like GPS.  (A later post will explain how the definition of “texting” tries to exclude such activities from the current rulemaking).

3 1 Public, expert and industry concern. FMCSA noted that broad agreement already exists about the inappropriateness and danger of texting while driving:
  • An AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey found that 94% of drivers think it’s unacceptable to text or email while driving, and nearly 87% consider such behavior a very serious threat to their personal safety.
  • DOT’s Distracted Driving Summit brought together safety experts and advocacy groups, researchers, federal and state elected officials, law enforcement personnel, and representatives of the transportation and telecommunications industries.  The discussion demonstrated need and widespread support for banning texting while driving.
  • A CBS News/New York Times poll reported that 90% of Americans think texting while driving should be outlawed, and more than 94% of those who admit they text or email while driving believe this makes them somewhat more likely to be involved in an accident.
  • Safety groups, including the National Safety Council and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, have supported texting-while-driving bans.
  • The American Trucking Association (ATAAmerican Trucking Associations) has urged legislation to prohibit all drivers from texting. According to a survey conducted by ATA’s Safety Policy Committee, 67% of respondents already have a company policy restricting or limiting use of portable electronic devices while driving.
  • Almost all public transit agencies already prohibit drivers from using electronic devices and/or from texting specifically.
  • The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (i.e., school bus authorities) has gone on record supporting legislation that would ban all drivers from texting. (We’ll discuss broader federal and state distracted driving initiatives in the next post.)

4 3 The VTTI Virginia Tech Transportation Institute data on distraction risks. In 2004, a motorcoach filled with students going to Mount Vernon collided with the underside of an Alexandria, VA U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which insures some mortgages bridge overpass; the driver had failed to move out of the low-clearance lane while talking on his cellphone. Investigation of this accident eventually led FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) to hire the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTIVirginia Tech Transportation Institute) to investigate the role of driver distraction in “safety critical events” (crashes, near-crashes and lane departures) involving CMVs. The Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations study placed video recorders and sensors in trucks driven by more than 200 different drivers and collected 3 million miles of data. It found that 71 percent of crashes, 46 percent of near-crashes, and 60 percent of all safety critical events involved drivers engaged in non-driving tasks such as texting, looking at a map, writing on a notepad, or reading.  Here is a summary of the study’s results:

(Click to open)

In this table,

  • “Odds Ratio” is the risk that a driver engaging in the task will be involved in a safety critical event, as compared with an undistracted driver. (Confidence intervals for these Odds Ratios can be found at Study pp xx-xxi). A texting driver is 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a crash, near-crash, or lane departure than a driver who is not texting. Texting drivers took their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds.  In this much time, a truck going 55 mph travels approximately the length of a football field.
  • The “Population Attributable Risk Percentage” takes into account how often drivers engaged in the particular task. The low PAR for texting means that drivers in the study did not text very often.

Because texting is a high risk activity, more safety critical events could be expected if texting while driving increases. The VTTI Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study observed driver behavior between November 2005 and May 2007. A wireless industry survey conducted by CTIA,The Wireless Association reported that 740 billion text messages were sent during the first six months of 2009 – almost double the number reported in 2008 and a 2,200% increase from the first six months of 2005. These figures show that texting in general has greatly increased in recent years, although they don’t break out texting that occurred while driving.

5 0 Other distraction risk studies. FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) identified several other studies on texting:

FMCSA considers these results consistent with the VTTI Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study, although it notes that they involved smaller samples, simulator rather than on-road driving, and/or young drivers. (For those interested in data quality issues, FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) provides peer review information about many of these studies, including the VTII study, in footnotes in the NPRM).

6 5 Help FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) get it right. You may have seen news reports last month that the Secretary of Transportation “banned texting” by CMV Commercial Motor Vechicles drivers. Actually, there wasn’t a new federal rule adopted at that time. (In general, agencies can’t make new rules without a long process that involves advance notice and public comment. See Learn About Rulemaking.) What really happened in February was the Secretary’s announcing DOTs interpretation that existing federal motor carrier A person providing motor vehicle transportation for compensation. The term includes a motor carrier’s agents, officers and employees regulations could already cover texting as an unsafe driving practice.

Whether or not texting violates general CMV Commercial Motor Vechicles safety rules, FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) wants to write a clear, detailed regulation that addresses texting specifically. You can help the agency get the new texting rule right. In each post, in addition to summarizing what FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) says in the NPRM Notice of Proposed Rulemaking: the official document announcing and explaining the proposed rule on the issue of the day, we’ll flag places where it explicitly asks the public for help.

On the risks of texting, FMCSA Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (The agency proposing the EOBR Electronic on-Board Recorder (A device attached to commercial motor vehicles that tracks the number of hours drivers spend on the road) rule) is looking for additional data or studies about texting while driving. In particular, it’s asking for any data about the frequency of texting by drivers in general, or CMV Commercial Motor Vechicles drivers in particular. It’s also asking for motor carrier A person providing motor vehicle transportation for compensation. The term includes a motor carrier’s agents, officers and employees companies’ experiences in implementing policies on their drivers’ use of electronic devices.