NTSB Press Release

National Transportation Safety Board
Office of Public Affairs


Statement From NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman On New Rule On Cell Phone Use For Commercial Drivers

December 23, 2011

Today's action by the DOT with a new rule prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating their vehicles is another positive step forward in improving safety on our Nation's roadways.

However, given what we've seen in our accident investigations, and as we commented in the NPRM, we think that the DOT should have gone further. Research shows there is no safety benefit to the use of hands-free cell phone devices. When at the wheel of a 40-ton vehicle, driving safely should be the driver's only focus.

As early as 2006, the NTSB was concerned about the impact of distracted driving on commercial drivers when we investigated a crash involving an experienced motorcoach driver, distracted on his hands-free cell-phone, failed to move to the center lane and struck the underside of an arched stone bridge on the George Washington Parkway in Alexandria, Virginia. Eleven of the 27 high school students on board his bus were injured. As a result, we made a recommendation to prohibit the use of cell phones, hand-held or hands-free, by commercial drivers with a passenger endorsement.

Earlier this fall, following the investigation of a 2010 crash in Munfordville, Kentucky, a truck-tractor crossed the median of I-44 and struck a 15-passenger van killing 11 people, the NTSB called for a complete ban on the use of cell phones by all drivers holding a commercial driver's license, except in emergencies. According to interviews conducted after the crash, the truck driver normally used a hands-free device.

And just last week, after concluding an investigation of a highway accident that killed two and injured 38, the NTSB called on the 50 states and the District of Columbia to ban the nonemergency use of portable electronic devices for all drivers.

We are witnessing a disturbing trend in accident and incident investigations - the ever-present cell phone poses an insidious danger when it comes to cognitive distractions behind the wheel.

NTSB Public Affairs: 202-314-6100

 

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent federal agency charged with determining the probable cause
of transportation accidents, promoting transportation safety, and assisting victims of transportation accidents and their families.