The nation's roadways are a bit safer, thanks to U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who issued new rules last week banning interstate truck and bus drivers from sending text messages while operating their vehicles. It's commonsense regulation that should boost efforts before the Florida Legislature to ban all drivers from texting while driving.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have outlawed texting while driving after studies found the practice comparable to drunken driving for its deadly potential. Last year, a study by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that outfitted long-haul truck cabs with video cameras for 18 months found that drivers' risk of a collision was 23 times higher while texting. What's more, their eyes left the road an average of 5 seconds at a time while texting, long enough to travel the length of a football field at highway speeds.
Under the new federal rule, drivers caught violating the ban will face fines up to $2,750. But the real deterrent is changing the industry's expectation that truck and bus drivers can be communicating remotely and commanding their multiton vehicles safely at the same time. They can't. No driver can.