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U.S. bans texting by truckers, bus drivers

The Obama administration ratcheted up its effort to combat distracted driving Tuesday as it issued rules prohibiting drivers of large trucks and commercial buses from sending and receiving text messages while behind the wheel.

The new rule announced by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood would impose fines of up to $2,750 on commercial operators who violate the policy.

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Rather than a bill passed by Congress, the regulation is based on the federal government's authority to regulate interstate commerce.

Among the officials announcing the new rule was Anne Ferro, the former Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration chief  who now heads the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the agency charged with enforcing the rules.

"Our regulations will help prevent unsafe activity within the cab," said  Ferro. "We want to make it crystal clear to operators and their employers that texting while driving is the type of unsafe activity that these regulations are intended to prohibit." According to her agency, operators who text while driving are 20 times as likely to get into an accident than drivers  who  have thheir full attention on the road.

The ban is one of several  steps the Obama administration has taken to curb distracted driving since LaHood convened a summit on the  subject last September. Among other actions, President  Obama issued an executive order forbidding federal workers to text while driving  government-owned vehicles.

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