Commercial drivers should be banned from talking on the phone and texting when they are behind the wheel, a federal safety agency said Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board gave its recommendation at a hearing at Its L’Enfant Plaza headquarters after ruling that a truck driver using his cellphone caused a crash that killed 11 people on a Kentucky interstate in 2010. The board said the ban should include using hands-free devices.
The NTSB cannot enact regulations or laws, so it sent its recommendation to all 50 states and the District of Columbia; the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials; and the Governors Highway Safety Association.
Kenneth Laymon, 45, of Jasper had just made a one-second call that at the time of the March 26, 2010, crash on Interstate 65 near Munfordville, Ky., the board said.
Investigator David Rayburn said Laymon panicked and hit the brakes but didn’t try to steer his tractor-trailer out of the median. The 38-ton truck drove into the oncoming lanes and smashed head-on into a van carrying a Mennonite family and friends to a wedding. Laymon and 10 people in the van were killed in the fiery crash
The NTSB also found that driver fatigue and the failure of cable barriers along the median contributed to the fatalities.
“Distracted driving is becoming increasingly prevalent, exacerbating the danger we encounter daily on our roadways,” NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman said in a statement. “It can be especially lethal when the distracted driver is at the wheel of a vehicle that weighs 40 tons and travels at highway speeds.”