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Arnold & Itkin LLP Truck Accident Blog2014OctoberDistracted Driving: Truck Drivers & Cell Phone Usage

Distracted Driving: Truck Drivers & Cell Phone Usage

It's no secret that in this day and age, many Americans are glued to their cell phones. Unfortunately, many people continue to use their cell phone while driving. Estimates show that at any given time, there are 660,000 drivers in the U.S. using their cell phone. Distracted driving is one of the major causes of traffic accidents and cell phones are the primary distraction. Research has shown that drivers who are talking on their cell phone are 4x more likely to be involved in an accident and drivers who text are 23x more likely.

Cell Phone Use Banned for Truck Drivers

Distracted driving is particularly dangerous for truck drivers who are operating trucks that can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. After recognizing this danger, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration imposed a ban on cell phone use for truck drivers while the truck is in motion. The ban went into effect on January 3, 2012 and prohibits drivers from holding, dialing, or reaching for a cell phone while driving. The rule does allow truck drivers to use hands-free devices or use a cell phone after pulling over to the side of the road. Violations of the rule can come with fines of up to $2,750 and multiple offenses could result in a truck driver having his commercial driver's license suspended.

Employer Liability

Even with the ban on cell phones, many truck drivers still use them illegally while driving. If a truck driver causes an accident while distracted by a cell phone or other electronic device, the driver's employer can be held responsible. Under the legal theory of vicarious liability, employers can be held liable for the actions of its employees if those actions occurred while the employee was under the purview of the employer.

Many companies attempt to avoid liability by instituting cell phone policies that prohibit drivers from using cell phones while driving; however, these policies are difficult to implement because they generally rely on self-enforcement from drivers. If employers are not actively enforcing the policy (eg. monitoring drivers in the cab of the truck), it is extremely difficult for the employer to use the policy as a defense against liability.

If you have been involved in a truck accident that was caused by a truck driver's use of a cell phone or other electronic device while driving, contact an experienced truck accident attorney for a free consultation to learn about your legal rights.

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