Truck drivers continue to use cellphones despite federal ban

Vehicles on a rainy road

Large commercial trucks provide residents across Illinois with the material things they need, yet they are also an unmistakable source of danger for those all around them. When truckers fail to act responsibly and make bad choices, other motorists and pedestrians are often the ones who pay the ultimate price. To help prevent fatal truck accidents from occurring, federal laws prohibit commercial vehicle drivers from using hand-held devices while driving. Despite the well-known potential consequences and the laws banning the practice, many truckers continue to use their cellphones for various reasons, including making calls, visiting social media websites, and sending text messages.

Federal law

According to Distraction.gov, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which is in charge of all commercial trucking in the nation, banned drivers from texting while they operate their commercial vehicles in 2010. In 2011, the law was extended to include all hand-held cellphone use for commercial drivers. When truck drivers are caught breaking the law, they can receive civil penalties up to $2,750, while their motor carrier may be fined as much as $11,000 for each infraction. If a driver fails to obey the law and has multiple offenses, they may lose their commercial driver’s license.

A serious problem for motorists

In 2012, 3,921 individuals were killed in accidents involving large trucks according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The New York Times reports on a recent study performed by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute which found that truckers who texted increased their risk of being involved in an accident by 23.2 times. The study, which took place over 18 months, also involved placing video cameras in the cabs of long-haul rigs. Using the cameras, researchers were able to measure the amount of time that drivers were not paying attention to the road immediately preceding an accident. They found that on average, drivers spent almost 5 seconds looking at a hand-held device, an amount of time that would allow their rigs to travel more than 100 yards.

Real consequences for distracted drivers

A trucker in Arizona recently had to face the consequences of his actions when he killed a police officer while using his cell phone. The Huffington Post reports that the truck driver failed to notice that a police car was stopped in the right lane of a highway because he was engrossed with looking at porn and social media sites on his cell phone. The driver slammed into the police vehicle going 65 miles per hour, causing the officer who was working inside to sustain serious injuries that cost him his life. The trucker is facing one count of second-degree murder, six counts of criminal damage and 13 counts of endangerment.