The Virginian-Pilot© September 26, 2011 Presumably, most people behind the wheel of a tractor-trailer loaded with cargo or a bus filled with passengers realize it’s a bad idea to chit-chat on a cell phone while driving.But the exceptions, unfortunately, prove the need for a rule.Federal transportation officials are looking at a ban on all cell phone use – both hands-free and hand-held – by commercial drivers except in emergencies. Sending text messages is already prohibited.The ban on calls was prompted in part by a horrific crash in Kentucky last year that killed 11 people.Investigators found that the truck driver responsible for the accident had used his cell phone 69 times while driving during the previous 24 hours, including three times right before the crash and once as his vehicle crossed an interstate median and hit a passenger van.As a result of that accident and others in recent years involving distracted truck and bus drivers, the National Transportation Safety Board – an advisory panel for the Department of Transportation – has recommended a ban on cell phone use, including hands-free devices, by commercial drivers.Some trucking companies already have instituted policies barring drivers from using hand-held phones, according to The New York Times. And the American Trucking Associations, a leading trade group, favors a law against the use of hand-held phones by the drivers of all vehicles, including cars.The proposed ban on hands-free phones is likely to face intense opposition from trade groups as regulators and lawmakers debate the idea. There are conflicting studies on whether hands-free devices are any riskier than other potential distractions such as a radio. And critics of a hands-free ban point out that truckers have been using CB radios for decades without a great hue and cry for a prohibition.At the very least, safety officials should proceed with a comprehensive ban on hand-held phones and seek restrictions on the use of hands-free versions. While it’s impossible to remove all potential distractions from the cab of a truck or the driver’s seat in a bus, it’s reasonable to remove the most obvious, proven risks.Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood describes trucks driven by inattentive drivers as "80,000-pound unguided missiles." The wreckage from Kentucky showed all too vividly what those missiles can do. COMMENTS ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here; comments do not reflect the views of The Virginian-Pilot or its websites. Users must follow agreed-upon rules: Be civil, be clean, be on topic; don’t attack private individuals, other users or entire classes of people. Read the full rules here. – Comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the report violation link below it.