The U. S. Department of Transportation wants to prohibit interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving.
The proposed Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule would prohibit commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial vehicle. Drivers who violate these restrictions would face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750.00 for each offense and disqualification of their commercial driver’s license for multiple offenses. Additionally, states would suspend a driver’s CDL after two or more violations of any state law on hand-held cell phone use.
Motor carriers that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving would face a maximum penalty of $11,000.00 Approximately four million interstate commercial drivers would be affected by this proposal.
FMCSA research shows that using a hand-held cell phone while driving requires a commercial driver to take several risky steps. In particular, commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, while driving are three times more likely to be involved in a crash or other safety-critical event. Drivers dialing a hand-held cell phone while driving increase their risk by six times.
Many of the largest carriers, such as UPS, Covenant Transport, and Wal-Mart, already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones.
In September of this year, FMCSA issued a regulation banning text messaging while operating a commercial motor vehicle.
Nearly 5,500 people died and half a million were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009. Distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of overall traffic fatalities in 2009, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research.
I applaud the FMCSA for finally doing something about cell phone use by truckers that will help keep everyone safe. I sponsor the Truck Safety Coalition which, through tireless efforts, has finally applied enough pressure to get FMCSA to do something about this horrendous problem.
I have been successful fighting trucking companies over the last 30 plus years and have seen wrecks caused by this very problem. I am representing clients who have been injured by 18 wheelers and other commercial vehicles. In fact, my accident reconstructionist is in Waco now investigating the scene and all vehicles involved in a serious seven vehicle pileup caused when an 18 wheeler was not paying attention and rear ended them.
I just attended the annual conference of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA) in Austin and attended one seminar on the subject of “Driving While Distracted” to assist me prosecute the cases I am currently litigating where drivers have called and texted as they drove. I am on the board of the TTLA and we fight vigorously to prevent this negligent driving by commercial drivers.