MOUNT VERNON — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the Department of Transportation have instituted a federal ban on the use of hand-held mobile telephones by commercial truck and bus drivers except in emergency situations.
The ban, which went into effect Jan. 3, is expected to “improve safety on the nation’s highways by reducing the prevalence of distracted driver related crashes, fatalities, and injuries involving drivers of commercial motor vehicles.”
The FMCSA said research shows that using a hand-held mobile telephone while driving may pose a safety risk three times greater than other activities such as eating while driving; “Using a hand-held mobile telephone may reduce a driver’s situational awareness, decision making, or performance; and it may result in a crash, near-crash, unintended lane departure by the driver, or other unsafe driving action. Indeed, research indicates that reaching for and dialing hand-held mobile telephones are sources of driver distraction that pose a specific safety risk.”
Under the ban, the driver may only use a compliant mobile telephone, such as a hands-free mobile phone, to conduct a voice communication. A compliant mobile phone is defined as a mobile telephone with a speaker phone function, voice activation capabilities or a wired or wireless earphone. The use of citizens band radios is still allowed.
Talking about the ban, Capt. Dave Shaffer, Knox County Sheriff’s Office said, “When you are talking about a semi or large commercial truck, they could be up to 80,000 pounds. Anything that takes an extra distraction away from one of those drivers is probably a good thing.”
Drivers ignoring the ban will face sanctions of a $2,700 civil fine and possible loss of his or her commercial driving license. The trucking company could also be liable for fines of up to $11,000 for allowing a driver to use a hand-held phone while driving.
Lt. Toby J. Smith of the Mount Gilead Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said commercial motor vehicle enforcement officers could actually put a truck, and the driver, out of service for using a hand-held cell phone while driving down the road. Since noncompliance is a federal offense, the fines would be paid to the federal court system.