As a St. Louis semi truck accident attorney, I wrote last month about the issue of truckers using cell phones on the road. Truck drivers’ phoning and driving came into public scrutiny after several serious accidents blamed on inattention by drivers who were using their phones rather than watching the road. As a result, the federal government has announced a ban on most forms of phoning and driving by commercial truck drivers, as well as recommended that states outlaw the practice by ordinary drivers. As Fox 4 News of Kansas City reported Jan. 4, the ban on truckers using their cell phones as they drive took effect at the beginning of 2012, and Missouri law enforcement is paying attention. The Highway Patrol has been issuing warnings to truckers caught with their phones so far, but on Jan. 12, drivers and their trucking companies will face a $2,750 fine each time.
The new regulations prohibit conventional dialing of phones and holding a phone up to the ear while driving, except in emergencies. Drivers are permitted to use a hands-free headset to talk while driving, but they must be able to answer, disconnect or dial the call with a single touch of a button, without taking their eyes off the road. Drivers are also banned from reaching for a phone in “an unacceptable and unsafe manner”; phones must be in “close proximity” to the driver. (As a Missouri tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I strongly suspect this language will be the subject of lawsuits in the future.) The regulations make employers liable for the actions of drivers working on their behalf, which means they can be held responsible for the tickets. Consequences include the fine to drivers; a maximum penalty to trucking companies of $11,000; and driver’s license suspensions of 60 to 120 days for second and third offenses.
I am very pleased to see this rule, and I’m also pleased to see that the Missouri Highway Patrol is already putting drivers on notice about it. Drivers who violate the law aren’t just risking a ticket — although the size of this fine should make drivers think twice about that risk. As a southern Illinois 18-wheeler accident attorney, I know many stories about cell phone use behind the wheel leading to preventable tragedies. As I mentioned earlier, the Missouri crash that led to the federal government’s request to states was triggered by cell phone use; a young man in a pickup truck was texting shortly before he set off a chain-reaction crash that killed him and a teenaged girl, and injured 38 others. Here in St. Louis, a 2008 crash was caused by a trucker who plowed into slowing traffic while allegedly reaching for his phone, killing three and injuring 15. Lives are at stake, particularly when the negligent driver is behind the wheel of a truck that can literally crush smaller vehicles with its greater weight.
At Carey, Danis & Lowe, we represent clients who suffered serious injuries or a death in the family because of a trucker or trucking company’s bad decision. Semi truck accidents are not like accidents between two cars; the physics behind this kind of collision make a death or catastrophic injury much more likely. They are also different because of the great power imbalance between an injured driver and a trucking company. A trucker in a crash is backed (at first) by his or her trucking company, which is used to dealing with crashes as part of its business and knows the legal and financial mechanisms at play. By contrast, accident victims and their families are often upset, anxious and completely unprepared to negotiate or protect their rights. We help level the playing field with experienced legal representation that can protect your rights.
If your family has suffered a serious accident with a tractor-trailer and you’d like to talk to us about your rights and your legal options, call Carey, Danis & Lowe at 1-877-678-3400 today or send us an email.
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