Maine should impose ban on truck cell phones

Alabama trucker Kenneth Laymon had been on the road 13 hours and had traveled 437 miles when he punched a number into his cell phone.

It was a short call. And his last.

It ended when Laymon crashed head-on into a van carrying 12 people to a Mennonite wedding. Only two small children in the rear of the van survived.

Laymon and 10 others died in that March 2010 crash in Kentucky.

Driver fatigue and distraction were later blamed for the tragic accident. Laymon had been texting and talking on his cell phone throughout his trip.

The accident was the final straw for the National Transportation Safety Board, which last week recommended that millions of truck and bus drivers nationwide be forbidden from using cell phones while driving.

Similar rules are already in place for aircraft and ship operators.

The Kentucky crash was eerily similar to one in July when Peter Barnum of Farmington, N.H., drove his truck into the path of an Amtrak train in North Berwick.

According to an investigation released Monday, Barnum had just concluded a five-minute cell phone call from his employer. Records showed he had placed and received more than a dozen cell-phone calls while driving in the hours before the crash.

He was killed in the collision and several passengers aboard the Amtrak Downeaster were injured.

"Texting or talking on the phone while driving can turn deadly in a matter of seconds, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement issued last week. "There is no call or text message that is worth risking lives."

He's right.

Yet, it is easy to spot local truck drivers yakking on their phones even in congested city traffic.

And it's certainly not only the drivers of big rigs. The drivers of local dump trucks, delivery vehicles, even municipal equipment can often be seen with cell phones glued to their heads.

It's hard to believe that local companies and their insurers don't have policies forbidding the practice. If they do, they certainly are not well-enforced.

Unfortunately, the NTSB can only make recommendations. The organization must rely on the U.S. Department of Transportation or individual states to implement new rules.

While the American Trucking Association, which lobbies for the trucking industry, favors a ban on hand-held phones and texting, it doesn't support banning hands-free devices.

They say phones are used to get directions and instructions for deliveries.

Yet, truck drivers managed for decades to get from one point to another before the invention of cell phones.

Hands-free devices still require the user to place a call, which takes the driver's eyes off the road.

Moreover, all cell-phone conversations call for a driver to divide his or her attention between the tasks at hand: driving a 30- to 50-ton truck and carrying on a phone conversation.

Reasonable people know that trying to do two things at once often means that neither task is done well.

If the federal government doesn't act, Maine should impose its own ban on cell phone use by drivers of large commercial vehicles.

rrhoades@sunjournal.com

The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and editorial board.

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Comments

 's picture

FTC Banning Cell Phone 2012

Regaurdless of Maine, Cell phone use in Commerical Trucks will be illegal in 2012.

ERNEST LABBE's picture

Why are you

just targeting truck drivers. Holding a cell phone and driving is dangerous for thwe one doing it and everyone around them.

AL PELLETIER's picture

good question

Does the Sun Journal allow and encourage their reporters on the road to use their cell phones while doing their jobs? Curious minds want to know.

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