New Rule Bans Hand-Held Cellphone Use for Commercial Drivers

The eastbound ramp of I-40 was closed after a recent Oklahoma trucking accident. One of the two trailers the truck was pulling broke off and tipped over. Luckily no other vehicles were involved in the accident. In this case, the rainy weather conditions were blamed; however, driver distraction is another common cause of tractor-trailer accidents.

One main culprit of distracted driving involves the cellphone. The cellphone has made communication much easier particularly in the trucking industry. Many companies have increasingly used cellphones to stay in touch with drivers. However, too many truck drivers are taking their eyes off of the roads when using their mobile devices.

Distractions Caused by Hand-Held Cellphones

In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that almost 5,500 people died and 500,000 were injured in crashes where a driver was distracted. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has studied the causes of distracted driving and looked at the effects of distractions caused by a common culprit: hand-held cellphones.

The most common distracting activities associated with cellphone use were dialing and receiving calls. According to the FMCSA, a driver dialing a hand-held phone is six-times more likely to be involved in an accident. Reaching for a cellphone in a truck cab is also an added distraction. FMCSA research indicates that a driver who reaches for a mobile phone is three times more likely to get into a tractor-trailer crash or another safety-critical event.

Efforts to Reduce Distracted Driving in Oklahoma and Nationally

Oklahoma has recognized the dangers of driving while distracted by cellphones and has specifically targeted texting. Bus drivers and transit drivers have been banned from texting while driving in Oklahoma. The state also bans young drivers with learner's permits and intermediate license holders from using hand-held devices.

Additionally, a new federal rule recently went into effect banning commercial truck drivers and bus drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving. The rule was issued in November 2011 and went into effect January 3, 2012. Four million drivers nationwide will be impacted by the new rule, including intrastate drivers, who transport hazardous materials.

The FMCSA, along with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, hope to reduce distractions from hand-held cellphones in commercial motor vehicle accidents.

FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro says that the new rule was necessary because the dangers of accidents caused when commercial drivers take their eyes off the road can lead to lost lives. She says that "drivers must keep their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and head in the game when operating on our roads."

The new rule, however, does not ban truck drivers from still using citizen band (CB) radios.

Advocates of the new rule believe that the ban on hand-held cellphone use for commercial drivers will reduce the number of distracted-driving accidents across the nation and in Oklahoma.

Penalties for Violating the Rule

Penalties for truck and bus drivers caught using a hand-held mobile phone include: a civil fine up to $2,750 per offense and possible disqualification from commercial driving. Multiple offenses in a three year period can result in disqualification from operating their truck for up to four months.

Employers can be also fined up to $11,000 for failing to require that their drivers use hands-free options. Many employers will need to review employee training standards and investigate hands-free technology for their drivers.

Seeking Legal Recourse

For those who are injured in a truck accident, determining the cause of the collision may prove difficult. Injured individuals may find that recovering and getting back to normal life can be stressful.

If you or a loved one is injured following a truck accident, consult an experienced personal injury attorney who can investigate the cause of the accident. An experienced attorney can also explain compensation options under the law and make sure that your rights are protected.