Federal employees will not be allowed to text while driving, according to an executive order signed Wednesday night by President Obama. The order covers federal employees when they are using government-provided cars or cellphones and when they are using their own phones and cars to conduct government business.
Separately, the federal government plans to ban text messaging by bus drivers and truckers who travel across state lines, and may also preclude them from using cellphones while driving, except in emergencies. Ray H. LaHood, the transportation secretary, announced those and several other measures on Thursday, aimed at curbing what he called a deadly epidemic of distracted driving.
Mr. LaHood said the rule would “ban text messaging altogether” by such drivers. But Rose A. McMurray, acting administrator for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the trucking industry, said there would first need to be a definition of “text messaging.”
The question facing the trucking industry in particular is what will become of the computers that thousands of long-haul truckers use in their cabs to communicate with dispatchers and do other work. Some people left the gathering concerned that the conference emphasized texting bans over risks posed by drivers talking on cellphones. That issue was discussed, but less so than texting.
Critics said the texting issue seemed like an easier issue to address politically. Banning texting “makes people feel good and makes it look like you’re doing something, but you’re not tackling the more difficult problem,” said David Strayer, a professor at the University of Utah who studies distracted driving. “It misses the larger point.”