What Steps Does FMCSA Take to Address Texting and Cell Phone Usage by Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators?
Mobile phones and more specifically smartphones are probably one of the most impactful evolutions in technology of the past 20 years. The smartphone marries the convenience of a mobile phone with the power and access to information provided by the Internet. The smartphone also allows friends, family members, work colleagues and supervisors to keep in contact regardless of location.
However, the immense utility of the smartphone is subject to its ability to detract and divert one’s attention. While distracted driving incidents and accidents have always occurred, the smartphone is a much appealing draw on one’s attention than changing the radio station. Furthermore, while changing the radio or adjusting a climate control setting may take only a moment, content on a smartphone can capture one’s attention and gaze for a prolonged amount of time.
While the potential for a distracted driving accident exists in a vehicle of any type, the consequences of such a crash are exacerbated by the size and weight of a commercial truck. While a passenger vehicle may weigh in the neighborhood of 10,000 pounds, a fully loaded truck can weigh up to 70,000 pounds. The truck also typically towers over other passenger vehicles. The large size and significant weight of commercial vehicles mean that injuries in crashes are frequently more severe. Therefore, it is especially important to prevent distracted driving accidents and incidents.
How Does FMCSA Prevent Texting and Driving by Truck and bus Drivers?
In January 2010, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced that the federal government had issued guidance that expressly prohibited commercial motor vehicle operators from texting while operating large trucks and buses.
The ban was spurred by FMCSA research that showed that drivers who receive text messages will take their eyes off of the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every six second while they are texting. At highway speeds, this essentially translates to the vehicle traveling roughly the length of a football field without the driver looking at the road to scan for hazards or changed conditions ahead. FMCSA determined that drivers who text while driving were 23.2 times more likely to get into an accident than a similar driver who refrained from texting.
CMV drivers who text while driving can be subject to fines, penalties, and disqualification. A driver who is convicted of texting while driving can be liable for a fine of up to $2,750. A trucking company or employer who requires commercial motor vehicle driver to use a cell phone while driving can face a fine of up to $11,000. Drivers with a CDL who are convicted of texting while driving multiple times can face a disqualification from operating a CMV for up to 120 days.
FMCSA Also restricts the Use of Mobile Phones by CMV Operators
While texting by commercial drivers is strictly banned, FMCSA heavily restricts other uses of cell phones. The use of a cell phone includes any operation of a mobile device that requires the driver to use at least one hand to hold the device. This includes dialing the phone manually by inputting more than one number. Use of a cell phone also includes reaching for the device. The rule applies whether the vehicle is in motion or when temporarily stationary due to traffic or a traffic control device or signal.
To comply with FMCSA regulations a commercial driver must always ensure that the mobile phone is secured in close proximity so that he or she does not have to reach or unbuckle a seat belt to locate or operate the device. Federal rules require the drive to utilize a hands-free device or the speaker phone feature to hold their conversation. The driver also must use voice commands or be able to initiate, answer, or end a call with a single button push. Furthermore, even if the driver intends to use a hands-free kit or function, he or she is still in violation of the law if they must unsafely reach for the device. Drivers who violate these standards are subject to the same penalties as described above.
It is important to note that these are only the federal standards. States are free to enact more stringent standards regarding the use of mobile devices. Drivers should always familiarize themselves with local and state rules to ensure that they are compliant with the law.
Injured by a Distracted Truck or Bus Driver? You Need Representation from a Truck Accident Lawyer
If you have been injured by a truck driver that was texting, using a smart phone, or otherwise distracted the truck accident lawyers of Reiff Law Firm’s The Truck Accident Team may be able to fight for you. To discuss your legal options call our firm at (215) 246-9000 today or contact us online.