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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government on Tuesday banned hand-held "texting" by drivers of large commercial trucks and buses to avoid the danger of distracted driving.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement the prohibition takes effect immediately. It follows a similar ban in December for drivers of federal government vehicles.
"We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe," LaHood said. "This is an important safety step and we will be taking more to eliminate the threat of distracted driving."
The new ban carries fines of up to $2,750.
Research by trucking regulators show that drivers take their eyes off the road for much of the time that they send and receive text messages, and they are significantly more at risk of getting into an accident than someone who is not texting.
The National Safety Council, a research and advocacy group, estimates that 200,000 crashes of all types on U.S. roads are caused by drivers who are "texting."
Nearly two dozen U.S. states ban "texting" while driving for all motor vehicles and others are considering similar action. Legislation has also been introduced in Congress to prohibit the practice.
Many U.S. companies also ban "texting" by their employees while driving on the job.
Reporting by John Crawley, editing by Anthony Boadle