Along with resolutions and high hopes, the new year brings new laws. Among the new rules affecting Missourians is a rule that prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from using hand-held cellphones while driving.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Safety Administration enacted the new rule, in response to studies showing the danger caused by commercial vehicle drivers being distracted when using cellphones. Drivers who use cellphones while driving are 23 percent more likely to be in an accident. In Missouri alone, drivers using cellphones caused 21 fatal accidents in 2010.
Specifics of the Cellphone Ban
The new rule applies to commercial trucks and buses operating in Missouri as well as nationwide. The ban also applies to school buses and other vehicles designed to transport 9 to 15 passengers.
The new rule prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from handling, reaching for or using a hand-held cellphone while driving. Commercial drivers are prohibited from using a hand-held cellphone when operating a vehicle on a highway – whether the vehicle is moving or stopped because of traffic – and also when the vehicle is stopped at a stop sign or stoplight.
The rule does not ban all cellphone use. Commercial vehicle drivers are permitted to use hands-free cellphones and may use hand-held cellphones when parked in an area that is safe for parking a commercial vehicle. In addition, drivers can use their cellphones to report emergencies to law enforcement and other emergency services.
The new rule is a primary offense, meaning that police can pull over and ticket any commercial driver that they observe using a hand-held cellphone. Drivers who are caught using a hand-held cellphone face a $2,750 fine per offense. The ban also punishes trucking companies who allow their drivers to use these types of cellphones while driving with fines of up to $11,000.