Cell phones & semi-truck drivers: A dangerous combination for Missouri motorists

1412241_sunset.jpgIt's no secret that hand-held cell phone use is a common contributor to car accidents in Missouri and throughout the United States. As our personal injury lawyers know, numerous studies have indicated that cell phone use has a detrimental effect on a driver's performance. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) estimates that driver distraction plays a role in 15 to 20% of all crashes at all levels, from those that result in minor property damages to those that cause serious, life-threatening injury. And when the distracted driver is operating a large, heavy semi-truck, the potential for damage is even greater. In fact, the odds of being involved in a "safety-critical event" are 23.2 times higher for truckers who text while driving.

In January 2012, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FCMSA) passed new cell phone and text message restrictions that apply to drivers of commercial vehicles. Notably, the rules completely prohibit semi-truck drivers from texting when they're behind the wheel. Texting is defined as "manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device. This includes, but is not limited to, short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a Web page, or pressing more than a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication using a mobile phone." The rules do permit truckers to talk on their cell phones under certain circumstances, provided they're in compliance with the terms of the 2012 restrictions.

Frequently asked questions about distracted driving rules and commercial truck drivers

Under FCMSA guidelines, is there an acceptable way for semi-truck drivers to use cell phones when they're behind the wheel?
Drivers may use cell phones to conduct a vocal conversation, provided they meet the following criteria:

• The phone must be located so that the driver can access it while wearing a seat belt.
• The driver must use a headset or a speaker phone feature to conduct calls.
• The driver must use a single-touch button or voice-activated dialing to initiate calls.

Are truck drivers permitted to hold cell phones or dial numbers?
No. Holding a cell phone or dialing a phone number constitutes a violation of FMCSA rules. In fact, just reaching for a phone - even if the driver intends to use a hands-free feature - is prohibited.