U.S. Bans Truckers and Bus Drivers from Texting while Driving

Truck accident attorneys in Illinois and around the nation should be aware that the federal government formally barred truckers and bus drivers from sending text messages while operating a commercial motor vehicle, effective January 27, 2010. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) did not create a new regulation or a new law, but rather provided regulatory guidance. The FMCSA recently completed its “Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations” study and released the final report on October 1, 2009. In this study the FMCSA found that: The most risky behavior identified by the research was “text message on cell phone,” with an odds ratio of 23.2. This means that the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event is 23.2 times greater for drivers who are texting while driving than for those who do not.

FMCSA has now provided regulatory guidance regarding 49 CFR 390.17 in an answer to the following question: Do the Federal Motor Carrier Regulations prohibit “texting” while driving a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce? FMCSA answered the question as follows: Yes……Research has shown that during 6-second intervals immediately preceding safety-critical events (e.g., crashes, near crashes, lane departure), texting drivers took their eyes off the forward roadway an average of 4.6 seconds. Therefore the use of electronic devices for texting by CMV operators while driving on public roads in interstate commerce decreases safety and is prohibited by 49 CFR 390.17.

Truck accident lawyers should now issue discovery and subpoenas in lawsuits to secure the operators cell phone records to determine if the driver was texting at or near the time of a collision. If appropriate the complaint should be amended to include a violation of 49 CFR 390.17. Illinois and about 19 other states also ban texting while driving. On January 1, 2010, Illinois’ law became effective and provides: A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to compose, send, or read an electronic message, 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2. These state laws and 49 CFR 390.17 should be used in pursuing truck drivers and trucking companies for injuries in truck related crashes where driver attentiveness is the issue.

The traditional discovery in litigation of toll receipts, log books, fuel receipts, and GPS tracking devices should also be employed as hours of service violations resulting in fatigued drivers are common and the frequent cause of catastrophic injuries and fatalities in trucking accidents. Truck accident lawsuits are complex and prompt investigation by an experienced truck accident attorney is critical in ensuring a favorable outcome in catastrophic truck crashes. Speed of instituting legal action is also critical because federal regulations only require trucking companies to maintain their log books for six months, and they are frequently a critical piece of evidence in holding the trucking companies and their drivers responsible for serious injuries and deaths. Since truck accident cases frequently wind up in federal court because of diversity jurisdiction, this new interpretation of 49 CFR 390.17 will allow federal courts the authority to fashion a just and fair result for the victims of truckling accidents.