Friday, December 2, 2011

Hand-Held Cell Phone Use by Drivers of Buses and Large Trucks Banned

U.S. Transportation Secretary announced a rule specifically prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating their vehicle. This new rule is certainly news to me. I would have thought that this rule was in affect for some time. The joint rule from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) is the latest effort by the U.S. Department of Transportation to end distracted driving. Personally, the fact that the rule was not in affect until now is alarming. When drivers of large trucks, buses and hazardous materials take their eyes off the road for even a few seconds the consequences can be deadly. This rule will save lives by helping truckers stay focused on safety at all times.

The final rule prohibits commercial drivers from using a hand-held mobile telephone while operating a commercial truck or bus. Drivers who violate the restriction will face federal civil penalties of up to $2,750 for each offense and disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle for multiple offenses. Additionally, states will suspend a driver's commercial driver's license (CDL) after two or more serious traffic violations. Commercial truck and bus companies that allow their drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving will face a maximum penalty of $11,000. Approximately four million commercial drivers would be affected by this final rule.

While driver distraction studies have produced mixed results, FMCSA research shows that using a hand-held cell phone while driving requires a commercial driver to take several risky steps beyond what is required for using a hands-free mobile phone, including searching and reaching for the phone. Commercial drivers reaching for an object, such as a cell phone, are three times more likely to be involved in a bus crash or other safety-critical event. Dialing a hand-held cell phone makes it six times more likely that commercial drivers will be involved in a truck crash or other safety-critical event. Nearly 5474 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. Many of the largest truck and bus companies, such as UPS, Covenant Transport, Wal-Mart, Peter Pan and Greyhound already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones. If you our someone you know has been injured as the result of a truck accident contact our Maryland truck accident lawyers and Virginia tractor trailer accident attorneys.

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