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New Federal Distracted Driving Proposals Target Commercial, Haz-Mat Haulers

Over the past two years, distracted driving has become a primary safety issue that legislators and law enforcement agencies alike have worked to overcome. The U.S. Department of Transportation has taken an aggressive stance on distracted driving as it relates to commercial bus drivers and truckers.

Commercial Drivers

In early 2010, the federal government prohibited commercial drivers from texting while driving.

In December 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) proposed a rule to prevent commercial truck drivers from using a hand-held device while operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). The U.S. DOT also proposed drivers face fines of $2750 for each offense as well as license revocation. Employers would also face steep fines if they allowed their commercial drivers to use cell phones while operating the CMV.

A 60-day notice and comment period for the new proposed rule is currently underway and will expire Feb. 22, 2011.

Haz-Mat Haulers

A notice of a proposed rule, initiated by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) targeting cell phone usage by commercial drivers hauling hazardous materials (also known as haz-mat haulers) is also currently pending. The rule would prohibit haz-mat haulers from using cell-phones of any kind while operating a CMV.

These proposals highlight the safety concerns commercial vehicle pose to all motorists. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration estimates that crash risks increase 300% when a driver reaches for a cell phone while driving. Individuals dialing a cell phone while driving are six times more likely to be in accident.

If you have suffered injuries in an automobile accident involving a commercial driver, consulting with an experienced truck accident attorney is recommended.