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Distracted Driving Month: New Laws, New Limits on Mobile Use for Fleet Drivers

By Jamie Casella, Safety Product Manager

When it comes to distracted driving, there’s been no shortage of legislative and regulatory attention in recent years.  Laws and regulations have been passed and proposed in the U.S. and Canada prohibiting commercial drivers from using handheld mobile devices while driving, and in some cases, even from using hands-free mobile devices while on the road.

As distracted driving continues its ascent into the international spotlight, lawmakers and regulators will continue to make it a priority issue. So, I thought it would be useful to highlight some of the legislative and regulatory activity that has taken place recently regarding this dangerous new trend.

In December 2011, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued a proposal to ban driver use of all mobile devices, including hands-free devices. While the NTSB cannot make new laws, it is the government body that investigates automobile accidents and makes recommendations to lawmakers and regulators. This recommendation demonstrates a continued focus on driving and the use of mobile devices on the road. The idea of banning cell phone use completely has generated national headlines.  In fact, just last week Idaho became the most recent state to ban cell phone use while driving.

Canada has already banned the use of handheld mobile devices in all of its provinces. Additionally, the Canadian Automotive Association argues that driving while using a hands-free device is just as dangerous as driving while talking on a handheld device.

For U.S. commercial drivers, federal laws are already in place. In January, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration implemented a new rule banning interstate commercial drivers from using handheld mobile phones while driving. 

As part of this effort to crack down on distracted driving, the U.S. Department of Transportation has also issued guidelines to limit drivers’ abilities to use the entertainment functions in their vehicles, including typing addresses into GPS devices, making calls, checking Facebook pages, and reading text messages. These guidelines are aimed at car manufacturers, to encourage them to produce vehicles that would limit driver distractions available on the dashboard. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is overseen by the Department of Transportation, has hearings on the subject planned across the country.

What do you think of the new laws and limits on mobile use for fleet drivers? What actions can fleet managers take on their own to help curb distracted driving?