Proposed Cell-Phone Ban Backed by Unlikely Group

You might think that those who spend the most time on the road would be the first to line up against a proposed federal ban on cell-phone use while driving.

But the American Trucking Associations (ATA) this week announced its support for a proposed safety regulation that would ban interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using handheld cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle.

In a letter submitted to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the ATA also expressed its support for laws and regulations that ban a driver of any vehicle from holding a wireless communication device to conduct a conversation while driving.”

But the Arlington, Va.-based association for truckers urged the federal agency to permit the use of hands-free devices. The ATA contends hands-free devices should be allowed because they present little safety risks and represent an important tool for truck drivers who need to communicate with dispatches and others. The association also said the agency should not ban hands-free devices because truck drivers rely on mobile phones to communicate with their family and friends while on the road and away from home for long periods of time.

In December the U.S. Department of Transportation proposed a rule that would bar commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle.

The ATA supports a ban on dialing telephone numbers while driving, but asserts commercial drivers should be allowed to push a limited number of buttons in order to make a hands-free call. 

The federal government hopes to improve safety on roadways and lower the number of accidents involving drivers who are distracted.

In 2009, 500,000 people suffered injuries in crashes that involved a distracted driver, according to the DOT.  And nearly 5,500 victims died, the agency said.

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