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NTSB Calls for Ban on Mobile-Phone Use by Commercial Drivers

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, concluding its investigation of a crash that left 11 people dead last year, recommended banning the use of mobile phones by commercial drivers except in emergencies.

The NTSB, in a statement today, cited its finding that the 2010 crash was probably caused by a tractor-trailer driver becoming distracted while using a mobile phone. The truck crossed a median on Interstate 65 near Munfordville, Kentucky, striking a 15-passenger van carrying 12 family members from a wedding.

“Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways,” NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman said in a statement. “It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds.”

The U.S. Transportation Department proposed banning the use of hand-held phones by truck and bus drivers in December, while permitting hands-free models. The NTSB recommends safety improvements for U.S. agencies to act upon; it cannot implement them itself.

In the proposed regulations, which haven’t yet gone into effect, commercial-vehicle drivers would face fines of us much as $2,750 and loss of their licenses. Companies would face penalties of as much as $11,000.

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