With the proliferation of technology and wireless devices, distracted driving accidents have become exponentially more common. While several states have enacted laws prohibiting drivers from using a hand-held cellphone while operating a motor vehicle, until 2012 there was no federal law addressing the issue. In January of 2012, however, a federal law went into effect prohibiting all commercial interstate drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving.
The federal law, which was promulgated by both the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, prohibits commercial vehicle drivers and hazmat motorists from using hand-held cellphones while driving. Specifically, the law prohibits truck drivers from holding, dialing or reaching for a cellphone. Hands-free use of a cellphone, however, is allowed under the law. In addition, the law allows a motorist to initiate or terminate a call by touching a single button on a mobile telephone or headset.
The enactment of the federal cellphone ban has been widely backed by State authorities. For example, the Missouri Highway Patrol reported 677 fewer crashes in 2011 than in 2010. With the enactment of the cellphone ban, the State hopes the number of crashes will continue to decline. As noted by a spokesperson from the Missouri Highway Patrol, "It is dangerous and we want to urge all motorists to make their call before they start driving."
While truck drivers may use hands-free devices and CB radios, a call on a hand-held cellphone could cost the driver and his or her company thousands of dollars in fines and penalties. Drivers found in violation of the ban are subject to federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense. Truck drivers who are convicted twice of a hand-held violation within a three-year period will be disqualified for 60 days. If convicted for a third violation within three years, the motorist will be disqualified for 120 days.
Furthermore, employers cannot require or allow truck drivers to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving. Under the law, motor carriers are responsible for the actions of their drivers, regardless of whether such actions are punishable by the company. Motor carriers that allow their truck drivers to use hand-held cellphones while operating a commercial motor vehicle face a maximum civil penalty of $11,000 per violation.
Truck driving schools have begun to enforce the new regulation. For example, a ban is in place at the KCK Truck Driving School in Kansas. According to a driving instructor, "Anything that you do that takes you away from your focus on the road is a distraction."
If you have been injured in a truck accident, you may want to contact a personal injury attorney. A knowledgeable truck accident lawyer can help you assess your case.