Feds say drivers of big rigs and buses could face criminal and civil penalties if caught using their mobile devices on the road.
The Department of Transportation on Tuesday issued a nationwide ban that prohibits commercial truckers from texting on their cell phones or other devices while driving.
"We want drivers of the big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in a statement.
"This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving," said LaHood.
Under the new rules, truck and bus drivers caught texting face criminal and civil fines of up to $2,750. Authorities said the regulatory decision is intended to ensure that drivers' focus stays on the roads.
"Our regulations will help prevent unsafe activity within the cab," said Anne Ferro, administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
"We want to make it crystal clear to operators and their employers that texting while driving is the type of unsafe activity that these regulations are intended to prohibit," said Ferro.
FMCSA said its studies show that drivers who text have their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds out of every six seconds while they are engaged in the activity. That means that, at 55 MPH, their vehicle is traveling the length of a football field while their attention is elsewhere.
FMCSA also said that drivers who text are 20 times more likely to get into an accident than those who do not use mobile devices while driving.
"Because of the safety risks associated with the use of electronic devices while driving, FMCSA is also working on additional regulatory measures that will be announced in the coming months," the administration said.
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