Last week, our blog began discussing how a comprehensive review of Florida’s distracted driving laws is long overdue given the staggering number of serious and even fatal crashes caused by inattentive drivers. Indeed, there is currently no ban on handheld phone use by motorists and texting while driving is classified as a mere secondary offense.
Specifically, we indicated that there multiple places to which state lawmakers could look for inspiration, including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations, which expressly ban all interstate truckers from texting or using handheld cellphones.
In today’s post, we’ll continue this discussion by exploring what exactly is prohibited by the FMCSA’s regulations.
Texting while driving
The FMCSA regulations dictate that truckers cannot text while behind the wheel, meaning they cannot enter text manually or read it from an electronic device. It should be understood, however, that the agency’s definition of texting encompasses far more than the simple short message services that so many of us use on a daily basis.
Indeed, the following activities are included under the texting ban:
- Instant messaging
- Requests/commands to access web pages
- Pushing more than one button to initiate or end a call
- All forms of electronic text entry or retrieval for use in present or future communication
Those caught violating the FMCSA’s prohibition on texting face fines of up to $2,750 and possible driver disqualification for multiple infractions. Trucking companies that require or allow drivers to text can face fines of up to $11,000.
Using handheld cellphones
The FMCSA regulations dictate that truckers cannot 1) use one hand to hold a cellphone to make a call, 2) dial a cellphone by pressing more than a single button, or 3) unsafely reach for a cellphone (i.e., leave their seat, take their eyes off the road, etc.) while behind the wheel.
Unlike texting, however, a trucker is actually permitted to use a cellphone to talk while driving provided the following conditions are met:
- The cellphone is located in a position where it can be safely reached and used while the trucker has their seatbelt fastened.
- The trucker uses the speakerphone feature or an earpiece.
- The initiation, answering or termination of a call is accomplished via voice activation or a one-button touch feature.
Those truckers and trucking companies caught violating the FMCSA’s prohibition on using a handheld cellphone face the same penalties as those for texting outlined above.
Consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible if the negligence of a trucker or trucking company have caused you or your family unimaginable loss.