In 2013, a New York couple was stopped along a Pennsylvania road when a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of their vehicle. ABC News reports that the driver of the semi truck was texting while driving and did not see the couple’s car. The couple died as a result of the incident.
Any personal injury attorney in Chicago knows that truckers in Illinois and across the country are prohibited from participating in distracted behavior, such as texting while driving. However, recent reports reveal that many truck drivers are ignoring the law.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits any interstate truck drivers from using handheld mobile phones while on the road, which includes texting while driving. However, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports that roughly 16,000 truckers were ticketed for the behavior last year.
The FMCSA defines mobile phone use as the following:
- Dialing the phone or pressing more than just one button
- Using a hand to hold a phone and make a call
- Reaching for the phone in such a way that the driver is no longer in the seated position and restrained by a seatbelt
These laws apply to interstate bus and truck drivers as well as anyone who transports certain quantities of hazardous materials.
There are serious risks associated with truckers texting behind the wheel. The FMCSA points out that a tractor-trailer driver who is texting and driving is 23.2 times more likely to be in a hazardous situation, such as veering into another lane or causing a crash or near-crash. Even just dialing a phone will take a motorist’s eyes off the road for a significant period of time, making it six times more likely that the driver will cause an accident or near-miss.
If a truck driver is lucky enough to avoid an accident and only be ticketed for such an offense, the penalties could include fines of up to $2,750, accumulating points on a license and, if multiple offenses are involved, losing a commercial driver’s license. Employers may also be punished, especially those that allow or require their drivers to use a handheld device while on the road.
Unfortunately, as a personal injury attorney in Chicago has seen, these consequences are often not enough to discourage truckers from engaging in mobile phone use behind the wheel. Advocates have called for stricter regulations, including the loss of a license for just one infraction.
A tractor-trailer is a large vehicle that can cause substantial damage when the driver is not abiding by the law. Anyone who has concerns regarding this matter should consult with a personal injury attorney in Chicago.