Last week the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) are amending the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) and the Hazardous Materials Regulations (HMR) to restrict the use of hand-held mobile telephones by drivers of commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). The hope is that this new measure will improve safety on the Nation’s highways by reducing the prevalence of distracted driving-related crashes, fatalities, and injuries involving drivers of CMVs.
Distracted driving is defined as driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. This can include activities such as texting, using a cell phone, eating, and even changing the radio or navigation system that can distract a driver from the road. Distracted driving has become a major safety concern over the past few years and is now the number one cause of car accidents. According to the CDC, more than 15 people are killed and more than 1,200 people are injured each day in crashes that were reported to involve a distracted driver.
While there are many different activities that can contribute to distracted driving, cell phones seem to be the number one culprit. Cell phones are a factor in 1.3 million crashes, hundreds of thousands of injuries, and thousands of deaths each year. Many attempts have been made to reduce the number of accidents associated with cell phone usage while driving. Some states have banned texting while driving and some have gone even further to ban all handheld cell phones while driving. In October of 2010, the FMCSA enacted a rule that prohibited texting by CMV drivers.
The new cell phone ban on CMV drivers aims to reduce distracted driving by banning handheld cell phones and implementing a number of consequences for those who do not comply. Each offense can cost the violator up to $2,750 and multiple offenses can result in disqualification from operating a commercial vehicle. After two or more serious violations, states can move to suspend the CDL license of the driver. Companies can also be held responsible for a driver using a handheld cell phone. Companies can be charged up to $11,000 if they permit drivers to use hand-held phones while behind the wheel.