Federal Law Bans Cell Phones for Drivers of Commercial Trucks and Buses in Missouri and Nationwide

232051_semi-truck_1.jpgThe Independence, Missouri truck accident attorneys frequently handle accident cases involving distracted drivers, so we know how much damage these accidents can cause. Studies show that when drivers use cell phones, they experience a 37% reduction in the amount of brain activity associated with driving. And when the distracted driver is operating a tractor trailer, the potential for extensive damage and serious injury rises dramatically. However, a new federal law is designed to combat this issue: effective January 3, 2012, it is now illegal for commercial truck and bus drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving.

The new law was created in response to the rising number of injury and fatality accidents caused by cell phones. In 2010, 23% of car accidents were precipitated by cell phone use, according to the National Safety Report. Further, because of their sheer size and weight, commercial trucks can inflict some of the worst injuries on accident victims. Sergeant Jason Pace of the Missouri Highway Patrol says that "Distracted driving is becoming increasingly dangerous...and it can become especially deadly when the driver...is behind the wheel of a vehicle pulling 80,000 pounds."

Transportation officials are concerned - and rightly so - that trucking accidents connected to distracted driving are becoming far too common. For example, in 2008, a truck driver caused a massive Missouri accident when he reached for his cell phone and failed to notice traffic stopped in front of him. He subsequently plowed into several cars. Three people were killed and fourteen people were injured (including a man who sustained severe brain damage and is now unable to walk or talk). The truck driver eventually pled guilty to three counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Under the new law, commercial truck and bus drivers are only allowed to place or receive phone calls if they can do so by pushing a single button (as on a Bluetooth headset). Hand-held phones are totally banned, and drivers are not permitted to reach for any electronic devices. Violations carry strict penalties: drivers can be fined over $2,700 for each offense, and their employers can be fined up to $11,000. (To read the law in its entirety, click here.)

Amongst truck drivers, the reaction to the new law is mixed. Some truckers and trucking companies have publicly supported the ban and its goal of making Missouri highways safer. Don Lacy, Director of Safety at Prime Inc. trucking company, acknowledges that "trying to drive a truck with a multi-gear transmission and everything that's going on around you with a hand-held cell phone up to your ear" is irresponsible and can have deadly consequences. Others feel that the fines are too severe, and that the law ought to apply to all vehicles, not just commercial trucks and buses.

The Jackson County truck accident attorneys believe this ban is an important step. We also feel that imposing strict penalties for violations is one of the only ways to change public behaviors and attitudes. Far too many drivers have a cavalier attitude towards distracted driving: at the very least, perhaps the fines will make Missouri truck drivers think twice before using a cell phone. After all, when you're making a choice that could affect other innocent lives, that choice should be considered pretty carefully.

The attorneys at Aaron Sachs and Associates serve truck accident victims throughout Missouri: we have offices in Springfield, Joplin, Cape Girardeau, Columbia and Kansas City. To schedule a free initial consultation, call 1-888-777-AUTO, or visit our website for more information.

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