In an effort to reduce truck accidents, the federal government has implemented strict new anti-texting laws for commercial truck drivers and bus drivers. As a truck accident lawyer, I like to cover all new trucking laws. These anti-texting laws are effective immediately, and fines could reach as high as $2,750.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced the ban following the release of a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study of truck accidents, which found that truck drivers were:
23.2 times likelier to crash while texting
6.7 times likelier to crash while using/reaching for an electronic device
5.9 times likelier to crash while dialing a phone.
The report was based on data from several studies, equaling about six million miles of driving. It also found that risks increased for auto and light truck drivers, but by much smaller factors: Dialing while driving almost tripled the chances of an accident, while talking on a cell phone increased crash risk by 1.3 times, and reaching for a device boosted risk by 1.4 times.
This is the latest in a series of laws enacted at various jurisdictional levels banning various uses of cell phones while driving. For more info on a state-by-state basis, see my recent post on texting while driving.
Last October 1, President Barack Obama banned texting by federal workers driving government vehicles or their own vehicles while on government business. And the senate is considering legislation that would force all states to ban texting while driving, or risk losing millions of dollars in federal funds.
No Texts for Hazmat Drivers
In related news, texting by commercial drivers hauling hazardous materials will be banned by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, starting March 30. This dovetails with new legislation from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to ensure that all hazmat (Hazardous materials) drivers are banned from texting while driving, whether operating intrastate or interstate. (The FMCSA has jurisdiction over drivers operating in interstate commerce, but the PHMSA has jurisdiction over all hazmat drivers.) The one exception is that commercial drivers may text with enforcement officials or other responders in an emergency.