ATA Supports Proposed Ban on Hand-Held Phone Use by Drivers

February 23, 2011

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The American Trucking Associations announced its support of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's proposed prohibition on the use of hand-held mobile phones, though it urged the agency to allow the use of hands free devices, citing agency research demonstrating the net safety benefits of such devices.

"ATA's progressive safety agenda calls for the safe use of technology and our associations' policy calls for laws and regulations that ban all motorists from using hand-held mobile phones while driving," ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. "Recognizing the risks of hand held mobile phone use, it simply makes sense to prohibit their use by all motorists to make the highways safer for everyone."

To this end, ATA has supported laws and regulations banning hand-held phone use for all motorists at the state and Federal levels. ATA reiterated this position in comments filed Feb. 22 on FMCSA's proposed ban for truck drivers. Last year, ATA supported DOT's ban on texting by drivers commercial vehicles while their vehicles are in motion.

However, while ATA agreed with FMCSA that "drivers should be prohibited from dialing a telephone number while driving," it urged the agency not to limit drivers from pushing "a limited number of buttons in order to initiate a hands-free call."

ATA also objected to the proposed prohibition on reaching for a mobile phone while driving. Doing so, ATA argued, would prevent drivers from initiating hands-free calls which, as the agency's research demonstrates, can have a net safety benefit. Further, ATA claimed, it is inconsistent to permit drivers to reach for other objects (e.g., a C.B., a radio dial) but prohibit reaching for a cell phone.

In comments filed by OOIDA, association president Jim Johnston noted that driver distraction is seldom the cause of truck wrecks. Johnston indicated that that the safety record of professional drivers has improved significantly in recent years, and he cited a study done by the transportation institute at Virginia Tech that found that talking on a hand-held cell phone doesn't create any increased risk of an accident.

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