The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has proposed a measure to help prevent commercial drivers from driving while distracted. The rule, issued in November of 2011, bans the use of cell phones and handheld devices by drivers of commercial vehicles.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated that the ban is an effort to increase safety because the consequences of commercial truck or bus drivers taking their eyes off the road for even one second can be deadly. A driver reaching for an object in the vehicle, such as a phone, is three times as likely to be involved in an accident. Dialing a handheld device doubles the risk. The federal measure took effect January 3, 2012 and affects not only large commercial trucking companies but also small businesses that use trucks to transport and deliver their products, like florists and bakeries.
Violations under the new FMCSA rule carry a hefty fine. The driver can be fined $2,750 for the first offense, with a second violation resulting in the possible loss of the driver's commercial license. Employers are also being held responsible for their employees' actions. Any employer that allows its drivers to use cell phones or handheld devices while driving can be fined up to $11,000.
This regulation may require some changes in the culture of trucking companies across the nation. Management will not be able to contact their drivers at a moment's notice. Drivers will be required to pull over to a safe location and return a call, not just pick up the phone and continue driving. Many large trucking companies like UPS already have measures in place to ensure their drivers are not using handheld devices while driving.
Accidents involving distracted drivers killed 5,474 people in 2009 alone. Officials state that the inconveniences the new law may entail are worth the lives that may be saved. Injured motorists may be entitled to benefits from the insurance company and the negligent driver that caused the accident. Car accident victims may be entitled to medical expenses, lost wage benefits and a personal injury award for damages. A personal injury attorney in Illinois that specializes in motor vehicle accidents can help during all stages of the process.