WASHINGTON - U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced new anti-distracted driving regulations for drivers transporting hazardous materials, commercial truck and bus drivers, and rail operators at the 2010 national Distracted Driving Summit on Sept. 21.
Secretary LaHood announced he is initiating a new rulemaking to prohibit commercial truck drivers from texting while transporting hazardous materials. The proposed hazmat ban is on top of an earlier proposal to ban texting by interstate truckers. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published that final rule Sept. 21, scheduled to take effect on Oct. 21.
In addition, LaHood announced rules banning commercial bus and truck drivers from texting on the job and restricting train operators from using cell phones and other electronic devices while driving - proposed at last year's summit - are now "the law of the land."
"We learned last year that distracted driving is an epidemic," said LaHood. "It's an epidemic because everyone has a cell phone, and everyone thinks they can use it while driving," he said. "There's no call or e-mail so important that it can't wait."
LaHood also said he plans to work with automakers to "put safety before entertainment," identifying the need for review of technology features on many new models.
According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research, distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009.