Last Tuesday, the federal Department of Transportation announced a regulatory guidance banning texting by drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles in interstate transportation. The new guidance resulted from a distracted driving summit held by DOT last Fall. Drivers who violate this rule are subject to fines of up to $2750 per incident. The ban is not a new regulation, but expands the interpretation of the current provisions of 49 C.F.R. § 390.17 to include a ban on texting while driving. DOT announced that it will follow this interpretation with a specific regulation covering texting later in 2010.
The new interpretation takes immediate effect. In announcing its adoption, DOT stated that this is the first in a series of measures intended to address the increasing number of accidents attributed to distracted driving. DOT gave no indication whether it intends to regulate the use of cellular voice communications by CMV drivers. Nineteen states, including North Carolina, already prohibit texting while driving for all drivers, including passenger and commercial vehicles.