The National Transportation Safety Board has formally recommended a ban on the use of cell phones and other mobile electronic devices by commercial truck drivers while driving. While this does not have the force of law, the recommendation follows on a prior recommendation to ban text messaging by truck drivers. The Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog previously reported on how this led to a formal ban by the federal government on texting by commercial truckers. Nineteen U.S. states and the District of Columbia already ban all drivers from texting while driving. The federal texting rule for truckers, set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, carries fines of up to $2,750 per incident. The NTSB recommendation on cell phone use is likely to lead to similar rules regarding cell phone use.
The NTSB recommendation resulted from its investigation into a tragic crash on Interstate 65 in Kentucky last year in which a commercial truck driver veered across the median of the highway into oncoming traffic and struck a van carrying a total of 12 people. The crash killed the truck driver, the van driver, and nine of the van’s occupants. Two children in the van were reported to have been saved by their child-restraint systems. The investigation concluded that the truck driver’s distraction from use of a cell phone, combined with fatigue, caused the crash. Investigators found that the truck driver had used his phone for calls and text messages while driving 69 times during the previous 24-hour period. Road conditions, weather, and driver health issues did not play any role in the accident, according to investigators.
The National Transportation Safety Board is an independent agency of the United States government, formed in 1967 and tasked with investigating accidents in the civil transportation system. It investigates certain types of car and truck accidents. Since the accident in Kentucky occurred on an interstate highway, which is partly administered by the federal government, it came under the NTSB’s jurisdiction. The NTSB also investigates aviation, marine, shipping, pipeline, and railroad accidents. The agency lacks the legal authority by itself to create laws or rules, but its system of recommendations frequently leads to the adoption of new safety regulations. In it 44-year history, it has issued over 13,000 recommendations.