Illinois is one of many states that has banned the use of hand-held devices for all drivers because of the risk of crashes, but the size and weight of tractor trailers make them more dangerous in an accident. In response to the increased level of danger from truck drivers using cell phones, the Department of Transportation passed a law in November 2011 banning all commercial truck and bus drivers in the United States from the use of any hand-held device. While this has reduced the number of injury accidents and fatalities, truck driver distraction continues to be a problem.
Cell phone use comes with heavy fines
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s active enforcement of the cell phone ban in trucks resulted in nearly 600 tickets in one year. Each offense comes with a fine of $2,750 for the driver, as well as 10 Unsafe Driving Violation Points. A second offense in three years disqualifies the driver for 60 days, and a third conviction results in a 120 day disqualification. Companies that allow their drivers to use cell phones can expect fines up to $11,000.
Distraction.gov describes a distraction as an activity that takes the hands, eyes or mental focus off of the task of driving. For truckers, federal law specifically bans the following:
- Holding a cell phone with at least one hand
- Pressing more than one button to dial or answer a cell phone
- Changing correct seat driving position to reach for a cell phone
Other sources of distraction include eating, drinking and looking at maps or a navigation system. All of these actions are dangerous, but according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, using a hand-held device for texting or entertainment increases the probability of a crash by 23.2 times.
Distracted driving has a heavy toll
Truck drivers spend as many as 11 hours on the road each day, and this makes them particularly susceptible to distracted driving. In 2013, the driver of a tanker truck slammed into three police cars going 65 miles per hour while looking at Facebook on his cell phone, according to a story by the Huffington Post. The cars and other emergency vehicles had responded to another accident and were sitting beside the road. One officer was killed and six vehicles were destroyed, including the truck. This deadly crash is not an isolated event.
According to Illinois Crash Data, there were 93 fatalities and more than 2,500 injuries involving tractor trailers in 2011. Accidents involving trucks often result in serious or permanent injuries, as well as fatalities. An Illinois personal injury lawyer can ensure that the responsible party is held accountable, and that full compensation is rewarded.