How Common Are Trucking Accidents Caused By Cellphone Use?
Trucking accidents caused by cell phone usage are very common. There are many different ways that semi-truck drivers can get distracted by cell phones, leading to an accident. Truck drivers could simply be talking on a cell phone when they are driving down the road. Texting makes a truck driver more likely to be involved in an accident, and that's the reason that Texas recently banned texting for all drivers while driving in the state of Texas (http://www.businessinsider.com/texas-house-passes-statewide-ban-on-texting-while-driving-2017-3). Another phenomenon that we see is that drivers will use their cell phones for GPS. It is one thing if the cell phone is mounted on the dash, but if they have it in their hand or on the seat, they are constantly looking down at their cell phone.
It can cause the drivers to make mistakes, particularly when they are driving at high speeds in high traffic such as on I-10. Some of these guys have long trips and get bored, so they use their cell phones to surf the net. It is a big problem, just like truck wrecks in general are a big problem.
Are The Distractions Mostly Caused By Texting Or Cellphone GPS Usage?
The more interactive a truck driver is with their phone, the more likely they are to get involved in a wreck. That is the reason that Texas banned texting while driving. Some cities prohibit talking on the phone at all while you are driving, but the different ways that drivers can get distracted are texting, talking on the phone, GPS, and reading emails or even surfing the web. In theory, the more hand's free the device is, the less likely it is to result in a wreck, and the more you are taking your eyes off the road and looking at your cell phone, the more likely you are to be involved in a wreck.
What Are The Official Laws That The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Has In Place For Texting And Mobile Phone Restrictions For These Commercial Vehicle Drivers?
State and municipal laws generally govern texting and mobile phone restrictions. Up until recently, there have been no specific regulations from a federal level that prohibits these actions, as it is usually more of a state and city level that prohibits this. But, a new law was added to the FMCSA a few months ago that restricts commercial truck drivers from holding a mobile phone device to make a call or dialing by pressing more than a single button. (https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/driver-safety/distracted-driving/mobile-phone-restrictions-fact-sheet) Basically, they can use the mobile phone while driving, but only through a hand's free device located in close proximity. Research has shown that the odds of being involved in a safety critical event are six times greater for truck drivers who engage in dialing a mobile phone than those who do not.
How Are Electronic Devices Actually Defined By The Law?
An electronic device is really anything electronic that has a specific use. It might be a tool or object. If it has a purpose, it is a device. A lot of 18-wheelers these days have on-board computers and built-in navigation systems. To my knowledge, they haven't prohibited using those. This is because many of those devices track speed, and they give dispatching instructions to the drivers. Those are permissible, just like a police car can have an on-board computer that they can use to give certain feedback. The problem areas come from the use of cell phones. Other related devices such as smart watches which interact with cell phones, should not be used to receive or send text messages. An iPad and/or laptop computer are even worse.
Are There Any Restrictions On Hands Free Devices In The Law Pertaining To Truck Drivers?
There are restrictions on hands free devices that can be used by truck drivers. The law is looking for hands free versus something that you have in your hand. The way they define the handheld mobile telephone is using at least one hand to hold a mobile phone to make a call, dialing a mobile phone by pressing more than a single button, or reaching for a mobile phone in a manner that requires the driver to maneuver so that he or she cannot stay seated in the driving position restrained by a seatbelt.
If The Truck Driver Was Using A Cellphone For GPS Purposes And It Causes An Accident, How Does It Impact The Personal Injury Claim?
There is what the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations require, but then there is also the general obligation to use reasonable care. If it is raining and there is a lot of traffic, and you are going at a high speed, it would seem to be reasonable to keep your eyes on the road and not be looking at anything else, including a mounted GPS. A good semi-truck accident attorney is going to look case-by- case at what the driver was doing, but the rule in both Louisiana and Texas is that the truck driver has to act reasonably, given the circumstances that existed at that time. For instance, what was the weather like, what was the traffic like, what was the terrain like, are you going over a hill or around a curve where you cannot see to the other side? All those things are going to play into whether the driver used reasonable care under the circumstances.
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