OOIDA on board to curb driver distraction

| Thursday, October 29, 2009

Small-business truckers say they support legislative and regulatory efforts on Capitol Hill that target texting and other forms of distracted driving.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association issued a statement Wednesday, Oct. 28, in conjunction with Congressional hearings and efforts by lawmakers and regulators aimed at reducing crashes and deaths associated with driver distraction.

Few know better than truckers who view the road and other drivers from their cabs.

“For years I’ve seen car drivers doing everything from reading books to putting on make-up. Now I see folks texting while driving all too often,” OOIDA Member Dale Wiederholt said.

“All drivers need to put safety first and fully focus on operating their vehicles.”

OOIDA will participate in the rulemaking process initiated by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to target the commercial-vehicle sector.

LaHood’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking would consider “banning text messaging and restricting the use of cell phones by truck and interstate bus operators while operating vehicles.”

LaHood says he believes that driver education, strong penalties and enforcement – similar to efforts that led to the standardization of seat belts and blood-alcohol limits – would work for implementing driver distraction laws and regulations.

He reiterated those points during hearings this week by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.

“Our research shows that unless we take action now, the problem is only going to get worse, especially among our nation’s youngest drivers,” LaHood told the committees.

Bills relating to driver distraction and education are progressing on Capitol Hill.

The latest is Senate Bill S1938, introduced Wednesday by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-WV, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-NJ. The bill, seen as a “carrot” approach, would provide incentive grants to states that pass legislation to restrict cell phone use and ban text messaging while driving.

Previously introduced bills, S1536 in the Senate and HR3535 in the House, take a “stick” approach. If passed, the bills would withhold funding from states that resist passing laws to regulate texting and phone use while driving.

To view the legislation, click here and search by bill number.

One of OOIDA’s major directives is to improve driver education.

The Association would like to see more state programs created that involve officers riding with experienced owner-operators so they can witness firsthand how people drive around trucks. Such programs could also lead to better enforcement of existing traffic laws.

– By David Tanner, staff writer
david_tanner@landlinemag.com

See related articles:
Feds consider rulemakings to ban texting while trucking
OOIDA supports a ban on texting while driving
Lawmakers tackle distracted driving, texting
Poll shows support for ban on texting while driving

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