It probably won’t surprise you to know that studies have shown that motor vehicle drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a “safety critical” accident than those who don’t. In addition, those dialing a phone number were six times as likely to be in an accident. Given that, it certainly won’t surprise you to know that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations prohibit texting and hand-held mobile phone use while operating a commercial motor vehicle involved with interstate commerce.
Unsurprisingly, drivers caught texting or using hand-held mobile phones are subject to fines, disqualifications, and being put out-of-service. So, what do you need to know about distracted driving laws?
What is “Distracted Driving,” Legally Speaking?
The FMCSA, in the interest of public safety, kept it short and simple regarding the use of mobile devices by truck drivers:
- No Reaching
- No Holding
- No Reading
- No Texting
- No Dialing
Texting, as defined in the FMCSA regulations, “means manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device”. This includes pressing more than one button to initiate or terminate a call, or texting on a dispatching device.
What this means for you is that, with the exception of contacting law enforcement or in an emergency, texting or dialing or phone calls need to be hands-free. Any hands-free device needs to be located in close proximity to the driver.
What are the Penalties for Violating Distracted Driving Laws?
The rules are pretty straightforward and shouldn’t be a reason for too much confusion. That said, every rule has its rule breakers. If you decide to risk your life and the lives of others by shirking the laws, you can expect the following:
- You can be fined up to $2,750 for each offense
- Repeat offenses will result in being put out of service for up to 120 days
- Your employer can be fined up to $11,000 if it can be proven that they knowingly require or allow drivers to use hand-held devices while driving
- Violations will negatively affect the employer’s Safety Measurement Systems (SMS) ratings
- Violations are considered “serious traffic violations” and penalties are taken from existing FCMSA guidelines.
Additionally, drivers in violation of the law will be subject to hefty civil fines.
Is it worth the risk? Of course not. Please always remember to be safe and don’t allow yourself to drive distractedly. While this is always, it’s especially true during the holiday season.
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