As a St. Louis Accident Lawyer, I was pleased to read that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has banned truck drivers from texting and driving. The ban is effective immediately and applies to all commercial drivers. That means drivers of any size truck that requires a commercial license, as well as bus drivers. It’s the first federal ban on texting and driving that does not apply exclusively to federal employees, and part of LaHood’s focus on reducing distracted driving. The federal ban penalizes truck and bus drivers up to $2,750 per violation. Both houses of Congress are considering unrelated legislation that would make federal transportation funding conditional on passing state laws banning texting while driving for all drivers.
Distracted driving emerged as an issue in 2009 after studies demonstrated that truckers who text behind the wheel raise their crash risk by 23 times and take their eyes off the road for nearly five seconds at a time. At highway speeds, that’s enough time for a semi truck to travel more than the length of a football field. For at least one Missouri trucking company, the ban won’t make a difference because it already prohibits its truckers from texting on the job. A spokesman for Prime Inc., a central Missouri trucking company, said the company strongly supported the ban as a safety measure for everyone on the road. It might be difficult for state troopers to enforce the law, because it’s hard to see into truck cabins. A law enforcement spokesman said citations were most likely to occur after an accident, when police can go through phone records and find proof that the ban was violated.
Unfortunately, this is probably true. Nevertheless, as a St. Louis Accident Lawyer , I believe this ban will help keep drivers of all vehicles safe for a few different reasons. First and foremost, a legal ban on texting for commercial drivers ties those drivers’ jobs and livelihoods to compliance. If truckers are caught doing anything that violates federal safety rules, they can be penalized by the government, and that can lead to losing their jobs, their licenses or their careers. Furthermore, truck drivers who violate a federal rule are more likely to be found liable in any trucking accident lawsuit that grows out of an accident caused by texting while driving. When the federal government has already said that a behavior is unsafe, it’s much harder to argue in court that it is not. And for both reasons, employers are likely to make compliance an important in-house safety rule as well, reinforcing the importance of following the law.