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NTSB: Cell phone use major factor in deadly truck accident

Due to a recent federal investigation into a commercial truck accident that caused the death of 11 people, truck drivers may no longer have use of their cell phones while on the job except in the case of an emergency. In a 2010 accident in Kentucky, a commercial truck collided with a passenger van carrying 15 people. Ten of the van occupants died, as did the truck driver.

Through the course of an in-depth crash investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (“NTSB”), it was found that there were 69 transmissions on the truck driver’s cell phone over a 24-hour period preceding the accident, which consisted of phone calls and text messages.

Investigators noted that four phone calls were made by the truck driver just moments before the crash. Excessive phone use and the related distraction was determined to be the direct cause of the accident, as the trucker’s final call was being placed at the moment the truck left the highway, and other causes — e.g., weather, road conditions, mechanical failure — were ruled out. Safety official stated that the truck driver was simply unable to concentrate on driving and controlling his vehicle.

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman termed having a driver behind the wheel of a 40-ton truck who is traveling at highway speeds and distracted by a cell phone “especially lethal.” The NTSB has recommended that all 50 states and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration create state laws or federal regulations prohibiting the use of any type of cell phone by a commercial vehicle driver, regardless of whether the device is hand-held or hands-free.

Related Resource: About, “Truckers may have to hang up to drive” Sept. 16, 2011