Proposed Cell Phone Ban for Truck Drivers Would Reduce Georgia Trucking Accidents

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As an attorney in Atlanta specializing in big truck and commercial vehicle collisions, I have seen firsthand what distracted driving can do, particularly when the driver is in control of a 60,000 pound truck. One study showed that for every six seconds of text-messaging, a truck driver takes his eyes off the road for approximately 4.5 seconds. Think about that. A 60,000 tractor-trailer is moving down the highway, usually in excess of 60 miles per hour, and for almost 5 seconds no one is controlling where it goes, how it will stop, and no evasive action is taken because no one is looking at the road.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) performed a study which showed that drivers who text-message are over 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash, lane departure, or other risky event than those who do not text while driving. In response to these staggering findings, in January 2010 the FMCSA adopted a ban on texting while driving for commercial drivers. The FMCSA also set its sights on cell phone use, in general, as culprit for distracted driving.

We have seen many cases of truck drivers who cause wrecks because of cell phone use. What should seems obvious–if you are in control of a huge tractor-trailer, you shouldn’t use a cell phone–is apparently not obvious to profit-driven trucking companies. While some trucking companies have bans on cell phone use while driving, such rules are frequently unenforced or, if enforced, they carry very minor penalties.

The federal government is now stepping in and attempting to reduce distracted driving by truckers. In December 2010, the FMCSA announced a proposed ban on hand-held cell phone use while operating a commercial vehicle. The proposed rule would prohibit holding, dialing, or even reaching-for a cell phone while operating a commercial vehicle. The proposed rule seems to leave open the door for using a Bluetooth or other wireless device, provided that the dialing, etc. is not done while the truck is being driven.The ban proposed by the FMCSA would carry monetary penalties for violations and also impose a suspension of the driver’s commercial license after two or more infractions of hand-held cell phone use.

Over 5,000 people died and close to 500,000 were injured in wrecks involving distracted driving last year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that around 16% of all traffic-related deaths are connected, in some way, with distracted driving. These proposed rules are the first steps to reducing these numbers.

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