Hand-Held Cell Phone Use by Tractor Trailer and Big Truck Drivers Banned

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The U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) recently announced the finalization of a rule which bans interstate truck drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving their commercial vehicles. The purpose of this rule is to minimize distracted driving by people operating vehicles which often weigh 50,000 pounds and, as a result, are extremely dangerous to the motoring public. Hopefully, the rule will save lives by ensuring that tractor-trailer drivers are focused on the road and not dialing a telephone.

The recently-announced rule prohibits CDL drivers from using a hand-held phone while driving a commercial truck (ie, big truck over 10,000 pounds, tractor-trailer, bus). Drivers who are caught breaking this rule may be fined over $2,500 for each infraction. Multiple offenses may result in suspension of driving privileges. Additionally, states will suspend a driver’s commercial driver’s license (CDL) after two or more serious traffic violations. Truck companies that permit drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving may face a fine of $11,000. Estimates are that more than 4,000,000 commercial drivers will be governed by this rule.

There have been countless interesting studies performed on driver distraction and safety. Included within these studies are scientific findings pertaining to distraction while speaking on the phone, while reaching for a cell phone, etc. While driver distraction studies have resulted in varied results. However, FMCSA research shows that using a hand-held cell phone while driving often requires a CDL driver to take risky steps to make a phone call. Such steps go above and beyond what is required for using a cell phone hands-free. The acts of searching and reaching for the phone are extremely dangerous and require the driver to take his eyes off of the road. Commercial drivers reaching for a phone are three times more likely to be involved in a crash than one not so distracted. Amazingly, dialing the numbers on the phone makes it six times more likely that a crash will occur.

In September 2010, the FMCSA issued a rule banning text messaging while operating a commercial vehicle like a tractor-trailer or big truck. This related rule, banning the use of hand-held cell phones, is another step in the right direction–protecting Atlanta and the rest of Georgia from distracted truck drivers.

Our Atlanta, Georgia law firm has represented many people who have been seriously injured in accidents involving distracted driving. We see this alll-too-common situation in both private auto and commercial vehicle wrecks.

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