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Preventing Trucking Accidents through Texting and Mobile Phone Restrictions

How common are trucking accidents in our state that are caused by distracted driving? When commercial truck drivers are on the highways in Illinois, they must abide by laws in our state that prohibit drivers of any type from using handheld cellphones while they are behind the wheel. Indeed, in Illinois, a law that went into effect in 2013 bans all handheld cell phone use unless there is an emergency. Drivers caught using handheld devices must pay a fee of at least $75, according to the Illinois Tollway website. There are more substantial fines for repeat offenders. Texting while driving has been illegal in Illinois for about six years now. But state law is not the only reason truckers are prohibited from using cellphones to talk or text while they are on the highways around Chicago. Indeed, in addition to Illinois law, there are now rules published by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) that specifically prohibit "interstate truck and bus drivers and drivers who transport placardable quantities of hazardous materials from texting or using handheld mobile phones while operating their vehicles." These rules are part of a recent series of actions taken by the U.S. Department of Transportation to help put an end to truck accidents caused by distracted driving. What are the consequences for truckers who are caught using a handheld phone, either to talk or text, while they are driving? In addition to the possibility of fines and fees from Illinois, truck drivers could face serious consequences as a result of violating the FMCSA rules, including but not limited to:

  • Penalties up to as much as $2,750; and
  • Driver disqualification (for multiple offenses).

Not only are the initial financial penalties steep, but multiple offenses could result in a truck driver being unable to work in the future, leading to a significant loss of income.

Details of the FMCSA and PHMSA Prohibitions

What, precisely, do the FMCSA rules prohibit truck drivers from doing while they are on the road? According to the rules, the following behaviors are prohibited:

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According to a recent article in the Huffington Post, drowsy driving results in thousands of auto and trucking accident deaths every year. Given that truckers spend long hours on America's highways—often driving while they are tired and fatigued—why are laws not addressing the risks of drowsy driving? We need to take a closer look at the laws in Illinois to considertruck accident prevention on the well-traveled highways around Chicago.

Lawmakers Approaching the Issue of Driving Impaired by Sleep Deprivation

As the article notes, most of us know the dangers involved in certain kinds of impaired driving. For instance, driving under the influence of alcohol or driving while intoxicated can result in serious traffic collisions. Yet drowsy driving is also a form of impaired driving that we do not consider to be in the same realm as drinking and driving. Indeed, both truck drivers and lawmakers tend to see this is "a much grayer area," given that there is no test for drowsy driving and no seemingly objective ways to implement laws prohibiting it.

At the same time, however, sleep-deprived driving has consequences that can be just as harmful as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For instance, the article points out that "staying awake for 24 hours is equivalent to having a BAC of 0.08 percent," which makes a person legally intoxicated in Illinois.

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