From fines to lawsuits to loss of employment, truck drivers risk serious consequences if they are found guilty of distracted driving. Regulations enacted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibit over-the-road truckers from using handheld mobile phones while driving, including texting. Texting while driving is against the law in the state of Maryland.
Truckers who ignore the law may one day find that the few seconds in which their attention wanders are enough to cause a horrific accident. Hopefully, law enforcement or the employer intervenes before such a tragedy occurs, even it means that the truck driver loses his or her livelihood.
FMCSA rules against the use of mobile devices
The federal rules regarding the use of mobile devices while operating a large truck are straightforward: no texting, dialing or reading, no reaching for or holding such devices. The FMCSA goes a step further by defining use as holding a mobile device by one hand to make a call or dialing by pressing more than a single button. The rules make allowances for truckers to talk to dispatchers while driving — but not by text or email and not by dialing a long number.
Truck drivers caught driving while distracted may face fines up to $2,750. It can also adversely affect their Safety Measurement System rating. Two such traffic violations within a three-year period can disqualify a driver for 60 days; three violations, for 120 days. Drivers are usually not paid for out-of-service periods (suspension from driving commercial vehicles). Despite these severe consequences, many truckers defy the rule.
Employers that allow or require drivers to use a hand-held device while driving can be fined as much as $11,000. However, most companies have strict policies in place to discourage distracted driving, since a crash brings with it the possibility of a large lawsuit. Trucking companies may simply decide to terminate a repeat offender as a liability risk.
The Virginia Tech study
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute was commissioned by the FMSCA to examine handheld mobile use by truck drivers and whether it compromised safety and increased the possibility of roadway accidents. The landmark study found that the risk of an accident was 23 times greater when truckers were reading or writing text messages. Even dialing a cellphone while driving increased the crash risk 6 times. The reason texting while driving is such a dire risk is that the effort requires manual, visual and cognitive skills. Five seconds is the average time for driver concentration to wander away from the road ahead — enough time to travel the length of a football field and more than enough time for tragedy to occur.
Seeking advice and support
In the event of a car-truck accident, you may have many questions. For example, if the trucker is suspected of distracted driving, you may wonder if there is a way to prove that and if you have a case against the truck driver as well as their employer. For answers, you can turn to an attorney experienced with personal injury law and truck accident cases who is standing by to help.
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