The media reported last month that the National Transportation Safety Board wants those drivers who maintain a commercial driver’s license to stop using cell phones while driving a heavy truck or bus. The ban would be for hand-held and hands-free cell phones. The Board endorsed the ban after it ruled that a heavy truck driver was distracted by his hands-free cell phone before causing a wreck that killed ten people. The specific incident occurred in Kentucky.
The truck driver had made a short phone call, but it caused him to become distracted and lose control of the truck. As a result, his 38-ton truck crossed into oncoming traffic and crashed head on into a van carrying a family traveling to a wedding. The impact as well as the subsequent fire from the crash killed ten people in the van as well as the truck driver. The truck driver had been texting and making phone calls throughout the day prior to the wreck.
I am sure that all of us have seen people distracted by their cell phones while driving. For some reason, drivers are unable to avoid the temptation to respond to the buzzing or ringing of a cell phone while they are driving. Yet, all drivers, not just heavy truck drivers, can be distracted. Many initiate the calls which are both business and personal. Even a momentary distraction from a cell phone can result in tragic consequences.
There is a responsibility on all drivers to pay attention while driving. There is an additional responsibility for professional truck and bus drivers to pay attention. These professional drivers are on the road all day and night. They are paid to transfer cargo and people on our highways. The weight of heavy trucks and buses means that even a minor collision with a passenger vehicle can turn deadly or result in serious injuries. Sadly, distracted professional drivers are becoming more commonplace. The most recent statistics show an increase in fatalities and injuries as a result of heavy truck related wrecks. In 2010 there were approximately 5,000 fatalities and 100,000 serious injuries.
I believe the proposal by the NTSB is a good one. Unfortunately, the NTSB does not have the regulatory power to ban cell phone use for professional drivers. The recommendation though has been forwarded to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and all 50 states for action. In the meantime, our firm continues to prosecute cases against distracted professional drivers. Fortunately, litigation also plays an important role for companies to ensure that their drivers are properly hired, trained and monitored. If someone you know is involved in a wreck with one of these professional drivers, or you need more information on this subject, have them contact Cole Portis or Julia Beasley at 800-898-2034 or by email at Cole.Portis@beasleyallen,com or Julia.Beasley@beasleyallen.com.
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