As a Missouri tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I was delighted to read that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has banned truck drivers from texting and driving. According to a Jan. 27 article in the Springfield News-Leader, the ban is effective immediately and applies to all commercial drivers. That means drivers of any size truck that requires a commercial license, as well as bus drivers. It’s the first federal ban on texting and driving that does not apply exclusively to federal employees, and part of LaHood’s focus on reducing distracted driving. The federal ban penalizes truck and bus drivers up to $2,750 per violation. Both houses of Congress are considering unrelated legislation that would make federal transportation funding conditional on passing state laws banning texting while driving for all drivers.
Distracted driving emerged as an issue in 2009 after research showed that truckers who text behind the wheel raise their crash risk by 23 times and take their eyes off the road for nearly five seconds at a time. At highway speeds, that’s enough time for a semi truck to travel more than the length of a football field. For at least one Missouri trucking company, the News-Leader reported, the ban won’t make a difference because it already prohibits its truckers from texting on the job. A spokesman for Prime Inc., a central Missouri trucking company, said the company strongly supported the ban as a safety measure for everyone on the road. However, KMOX in St. Louis reported Jan. 27 that it might be hard for state troopers to enforce the law, because it’s hard to see into truck cabins. A law enforcement spokesman in that article said citations were most likely to occur after an accident, when police can go through phone records and find proof that the ban was violated.
Unfortunately, this is probably true. Nevertheless, as a St. Louis 18-wheeler accident lawyer, I believe this ban will help keep drivers of all vehicles safe for a few different reasons. First and foremost, a legal ban on texting for commercial drivers ties those drivers’ jobs and livelihoods to compliance. If truckers are caught doing anything that violates federal safety rules, they can be penalized by the government, and that can lead to losing their jobs, their licenses or their careers. Furthermore, truck drivers who violate a federal rule are more likely to be found liable in any trucking accident lawsuit that grows out of an accident caused by texting while driving. When the federal government has already said that a behavior is unsafe, it’s much harder to argue in court that it is not. And for both reasons, employers are likely to make compliance an important in-house safety rule as well, reinforcing the importance of following the law.
Carey, Danis & Lowe focuses its practice on tractor-trailer accidents in Missouri and southern Illinois. We do that because trucking accidents are some of the most devastating motor vehicle accidents, causing deaths and severe, permanent injuries. Because of the mismatch in size and weight between a semi truck and an ordinary car, a truck driver who isn’t paying attention can devastate the helpless motorists all around. Our southern Illinois tanker truck accident attorneys help victims of accidents like these, whose lives were changed forever through no fault of their own. In a lawsuit, we can help victims hold careless truck drivers and their trucking companies legally liable for their actions. We can also recover compensation for all past and future medical costs related to the crash, lost income, pain, suffering and any disability or wrongful death.
Carey, Danis & Lowe offers free, confidential case evaluations, so you risk nothing by speaking to us about your rights and your case. To set one up, call us toll-free at 1-877-678-3400 or contact us online today.