DOT Cracks Down on Texting While Driving

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Texting is a major form of communication today and as a result, the government is sending a strong message about cell phone usage behind the wheel.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood rolled out new rules, Tuesday, banning texting while driving for interstate truck drivers and commercial bus and van drivers.

"It's an epidemic because everybody has a cell phone," he said. "People think they can drive safely while using a cell phone and they cant."

Research shows sending or receiving a text message can cause drivers to take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds.

At 55 mph, a driver could go the length of a football field during that time.

"In this congested environment, in the high-risk operation of commercial, we cannot tolerate or afford this condition to continue, in effect without treated with aggressive enforcement," said Anne Ferro of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

Concern about texting while driving isn't new. Nineteen states have already outlawed it and last year, the federal government launched the Web site Distraction.gov featuring an ad on the dangers of texting while driving.

Even Oprah did a show on using cell phones while driving and called it "America's new deadly obsession."

The new rules for big rigs and buses take effect immediately and carry fines of up to $2,750. The government hopes it's enough to get drivers to change their ways.

"No one ever thought you could get people to buckle up," LaHood said. "Now, 98 percent of people do use seat belts. Part of it is because of enforcement."

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to prohibit all drivers from texting. Many companies already privately forbid it.

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Paul  Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

As senior correspondent in CBN's Washington, D.C., bureau, Paul Strand has covered a variety of political and social issues, with an emphasis on defense, justice, and Congress.  Follow Paul on Twitter @PaulStrandCBN and "like" him at Facebook.com/PaulStrandCBN.