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Government prohibits distracted commercial drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration published rules that prohibit drivers of commercial motor vehicles, such as bus and trucks, from using hand-held cell phones or texting while driving. The FMSCA took this action because of the increased likelihood of distracted driving causing transit accidents and other crashes.

The FMSCA commissioned research which found that the odds of being involved in a crash, a near-crash and unintentional lane deviation were 23.2 times greater for CMV drivers who were texting and driving. This distraction made drivers take their eyes of the forward road for an average of 4.6 seconds. This distraction is the same as a driver traveling the about the same distance of a football field at 55 miles-per-hour while blindfolded.

The rules prohibit a CMV driver from manually entering text or reading text from an electronic device. According to the FMSCA, texting includes short message services, e-mailing, instant messaging, gaining access to a Web page and pressing more than one button to commence or end a call using a mobile telephone. It also includes engaging in any other type of electrical text retrieval or entry for present or future communication.

The FMSCA allows electronics that are part of a fleet management system to be used for other purposes. However, texting on a dispatching device is prohibited because it is not different from texting on another text-capable device.

Drivers may be disqualified from driving for 120 days for multiple state convictions for texting while driving. Drivers may face penalties up to $2,750. Employers who allow or require CMV drivers to use a hand-held communications device for texting and driving may be assessed $11,000. These violations also carry maximum severity weight on FMSCA’s Safety Measurement System results which identifies motor carriers that pose the greatest risk to safety for interventions.

These regulations underscore the dangers in New York posed by a CMV driver who is distracted or reckless. Victims of bus accidents or other mass transit accidents should seek guidance to determine whether compensation should be sought for wrongful death or serious injuries. Assistance should be sought promptly to assure that filing deadlines are met and evidence is kept.