As a St. Louis semi truck accident attorney, I have long believed that talking on the phone while driving is a bad idea for anyone — but especially for truckers in charge of multi-ton vehicles. That’s why I was pleased to see a Feb. 23 article saying that the American Trucking Association has expressed limited support for a proposed federal rule banning the use of hand-held cell phones by truckers on the job. The ban was proposed in December by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and Transport Topics Online reported Feb. 23 that the ATA has filed papers supporting a ban for all traffic, including but not limited to heavy trucks. Another trucking industry group, the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association, filed comments Feb. 22 opposing the rule.
The FMCSA has already banned the practice of texting while driving a tractor-trailer. Fines for violating that rule are $2,750 per driver and up to $11,000 for the driver’s employer. The proposed rule on cell phones would use the same fines to penalize use of a cell phone in the cab of a moving truck. As it currently stands, the rule would only ban hand-held use of the phones; hands-free headsets would still be allowed. In its statement, the ATA asked the FMCSA to allow the headsets, saying phones are an important way for truckers to communicate with their dispatchers as well as family and friends they’re away from for long periods. It also said drivers should still be permitted to push some buttons to start a call. OOIDA, by contrast, said cell phones are no more dangerous than CB radios or GPS devices, and existing reckless driving laws should be enforced.
Here in the St. Louis area, we have firsthand recent experience with the consequences of truckers’ cell phone use. In 2008, a trucker named Jeffrey Knight plowed into stopped traffic on Highway 40, killing three people and injuring 14 others. He told investigators that he had been reaching for his phone at the moment of the crash. It’s possible that Knight’s mistake was taking his eyes off the road rather than the cell phone as such. But as a Missouri tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I wonder whether he would have been tempted to reach for the phone if he were required to use a hands-free system, such as the voice-activated systems available in some new cars. Those systems are pricey, but even if trucking companies don’t feel that saving lives is worth the cost, it should consider the tens of millions in legal claims awarded to Knight’s many victims.
Carey, Danis & Lowe has a special focus on 18-wheeler accidents because they tend to be among the most devastating of all traffic accidents. Because of the massive size and weight of large trucks, they can cause death or devastating permanent disabilities in crashes that would only be fender-benders if they involved two cars. When innocent drivers suffer these kind of serious injuries because of a trucker’s or trucking company’s negligence, those victims have the right to request fair compensation from the wrongdoers. Our southern Illinois big rig accident attorneys help victims recover the money they need to get needed medical care — now and in the future — as well as support themselves and be fairly compensated for their personal losses.
If you or someone you love was seriously injured in a crash caused by a trucking company’s or trucker’s carelessness, you should call Carey, Danis & Lowe for help. To set up a free consultation, send us a message online or call us at 1-877-678-3400