Distracted driving is a growing problem in the United States. Cell phones have been around for several years, and now nearly ⅔ of all adults own a smartphone. We all know smartphones bring us hours of entertainment, but we should not be entertained by our smartphones behind the wheel.
The FMCSA defines distracted driving as reaching for, holding, dialing, texting, using, or reading. They define using a mobile device as using at least one hand to make a call, pressing more than a single button, or reaching for a cell phone in a way which would require the driver to maneuver so he or she is out of the driving seat position. This means all texting, dialing, and phone usage should be “hands-free”, with the exception of emergencies and contacting law enforcement. Any hands-free devices should be within close distance to the driver. Hands-free includes using an earpiece-speaker phone, hands-free dialing, or hands-free mode. A mounted phone is acceptable as long as the mount is close to the driver.
This also includes dispatching devices. Since texting on a dispatching device is indistinguishable from texting on a cell phone, it is also prohibited. If drivers are safely parked on the side of the road, they are allowed to use hand-held devices, but are prohibited from using them at stop signs, stop lights, or in traffic. Many trucking companies have moved towards hands-free dispatching devices combined with GPS systems. Some of these devices will only preview a short message until the driver has stopped to rest while some just give off a beep until the truck is parked.
Distracted driving has serious penalties for truck drivers.
- Truckers can be fined up to $2,750.
- If a driver has a repeat offense, he or she may be disqualified or put out of service for up to 120 days.
- Trucking companies can face fines up to $11,000 if they knowingly allow or require drivers to use a hand-held device while driving.
- These violations will affect the driver’s company’s SMS (Safety Measurement System) ratings negatively.
- Penalties are taken from FMCSA guidelines.
- Violations are considered “serious traffic violations.”
- Two serious traffic violations within a 3-year period will result in driver disqualification for 60 days, and three serious traffic violations within a 3-year period will put the driver out of service for 120 days in addition to hefty civil fines.
- These penalties and fines are in addition to the consequences the distracted driver faces with his or her employer.
- Many times this includes termination from the company.
How likely is the risk of an accident?
- Likelihood of an accident while texting: 23.2 times
- Likelihood of an accident while dialing: 5.9 times
- Likelihood of an accident while reaching for an electronic device: 6.7 times
- Likelihood of an accident while talking or listening to a hands-free device: 0.4
- Likelihood of an accident while talking or listening to a CB radio: 0.6
These FMCSA guidelines apply no matter what state you are in, regardless if your state has laws in place for distracted driving. Any activity taking the driver’s eyes and focus off of the road for any period of time is dangerous. No text, call, video, or picture is worth your job, your life, or someone else’s life, so before you pick up the phone behind the wheel, think about what you could lose or the damage you could cause. If you ever do find yourself in a bad situation as a truck driver, remember North Dixie Truck and Trailer, Inc. offers 24/7 emergency services. Simply call us at 1-800-440-9523 and we’ll be right there to help get you back on the road.