There is no doubt that prohibiting truck drivers from using hand-held cell phones would reduce the risk of serious or fatal trucking accidents in Knoxville, Maryville and elsewhere in the state. Tennessee trucking accident lawyers know that distraction is a common cause of tractor-trailer accidents. And, too often, the actions of a careless trucker result in the injury or death of innocent motorists.
We applaud the U.S. Department of Transportation's proposed new rule through the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which would prohibit interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating a commercial vehicle.
A similar ban on text messaging became final earlier this year. The Governors Highway Safety Association notes that Tennessee law already bans hand-held cell phone use by school bus drivers and new teen drivers. All drivers are also forbidden from text messaging while driving.
In fact, Tennessee joins 30 other states that have passed text messaging bans by all drivers. Extending the hand-held ban to interstate truckers is the next logical step.
"Every time a commercial truck or bus driver takes his or her eyes off the road to use a cell phone, even for a few seconds, the driver places everyone around them at risk," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "This proposed rule will go a long way toward keeping a driver's full attention focused on the road."
Drivers who violate the new rule would face a fine of up to $2,750 and could face disqualification for a commercial driver's license for repeat violations. Two or more violations could also result in a state suspension of their driver's license. Motor Carriers who permit drivers to use hand-held cell phones could face fines of up to $11,000.
About 4 million commercial drivers would fall under the new rule.
"We are committed to using every resource at our disposal to ensure commercial drivers and vehicles are operating safely at all times," said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. "Implementation of this proposal would help make our roads safer and target a leading cause of distracted driving."
Federal research shows that commercial drivers reaching for an object (such as a cell phone) are three times more likely to crash. Drivers dialing a hand-held cell phone are six-times more likely to be involved in an accident. Many large carriers, including UPS and Wal-Mart, already have company policies prohibiting commercial drivers from using cell phones.
Last year, nearly 5,500 people were killed and 500,000 injured in accidents involving distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.