The U.S. Department of Transportation is cracking down on distracted motorists with a new ban on cell phone use.
Starting Tuesday, Jan. 3, all commercial driver license holders, including truck and bus drivers, are banned from using handheld cell phones.
The U.S. Department of Transportation took action on the joint rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to end distracted driving.
Nearly 5,474 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009.
The new law will affect an estimated 4 million commercial drivers. The law allows only emergency responders and roadside assistance workers to use hand-held cell phones.
Some CDL holders say they already follow the law. Large companies like Greyhound already have a no cell phone policy in place.
"Ten days suspension the first time the company catches you," Greyhound bus driver Roberto Rodriguez.said.
Lubbock's own Citibus is also ahead of the game. Director of Transportation Serena Stevenson says they have raider red signs posted to indicate where drivers can or cannot use a cell phone, with stiff penalties if the rules are broken.
"First offense is a three day suspension, a second offense would be termination," Stevenson said.
But talking on the phone is not completely out of the question. The law allows the use of hands-free devices. Eric Wernick is one driver taking advantage of that. He's on the road three days a week and says keeping in contact with his family is crucial.
"I like the ability to at least have hands free because if I do receive a call on the road, I can keep my cell phone on auto answer so I don't have to touch it," Wernick said.
Tow truck drivers are also held to the same standard.
Drivers who violate the restriction will face up to $2,750 for each offense. They could even lose their license.
The Texas Department of Public Safety says they have to go through a rule making process before they can enforce a law like this. That could take months.
Copyright 2012 KCBD NewsChannel 11