As a southern Illinois semi truck accident attorney, I was pleased to see news that Illinois has become the latest state to outlaw the use of hand-held cell phones by commercial truck drivers. As Truckinginfo.com reported January 9, Illinois House Bill 5101 prohibits the use of hand-held phones, as well as texting, while driving a commercial motor vehicle. The law joins a previous Illinois law that prohibits texting while driving for all motorists. The new law adds hand-held cell phones to the mix, but only for commercial drivers — there is no statewide ban for drivers of smaller private cars and trucks, although it does ban this use in school and construction zones. Many of the state’s larger cities, including Chicago, have their own bans on talking while driving.
Illinois House Bill 5101 was passed to comply with a federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations rule prohibiting texting and cell phone use by commercial drivers. Those drivers include anyone driving a truck commercially, which means bus drivers and local delivery drivers as well as long-haul truckers. That means every state, including neighboring Missouri, already has such a law or will have one. However, Illinois has been more assertive than many of its neighbors in prohibiting cell phone use while driving. Neighboring Missouri does not have a blanket texting ban for all drivers the way Illinois does, and currently allows hand-held cell phone use for all non-commercial drivers; Indiana bans hand-held phone use only for novice drivers.
The MCSR rule was made after a push by the federal Department of Transportation to address distracted driving in general. With cell phones now widespread, more and more crashes are being attributed to driver inattention because of distraction from a mobile phone. In Missouri, texting is blamed for a serious crash that killed the 19-year-old driver who was texting as well as one student on the two school buses involved. Cell phone distraction was also blamed for a fatal crash on Highway 40 in St. Louis, in which a trucker failed to notice that he needed to slow for stopped traffic ahead and simply plowed into a line of stopped cars. That crash killed three people and wounded 14 others, including one who is severely brain damaged and will need lifelong care. Within the last few years, a widely published study also pointed out the dangers of texting and driving in a commercial truck, finding that at highway speeds, a semi can travel the length of two football fields during the time it takes to text.
As a Missouri tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I’m glad the federal government has been active in this area, because state legislatures frequently consider and reject similar legislation. Despite studies showing that using a cell phone while driving slows the driver’s reaction times to a level similar to those of a drunk person, legislatures are reluctant to regulate it. Lobbying by the mobile phone industry and others may play a role, or legislators may truly not believe there’s a danger posed by talking while driving. However, as a St. Louis 18-wheeler accident attorney, I’m familiar enough with the research into this that I believe we’re all safer when truckers and others are off the phone and only paying attention to the road.
If your family has suffered a serious accident because of a truck driver’s or trucking company’s negligence, don’t wait to call Carey, Danis & Lowe. Based in St. Louis and Belleville, Ill., we represent clients across Missouri and southern Illinois. For a free consultation, send us an email or call toll-free at 1-877-678-3400 today.
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