Have you been hit by a garbage truck in Dallas-Fort Worth? Worried about your child's bus driver's texting habits? Curious to know if federal employees must follow the same rules as the rest of us? Here's what you need to know.
The Law Prohibits Cell Phones and Driving
President Obama signed an executive order (effective as of December 31, 2009) prohibiting federal employees from using cell phones while driving government-owned vehicles or operating government equipment.
This means no texting, calling, browsing, GPS-ing...federal employees shouldn't touch their phones at all.
On January 26, 2010, another federal ban (championed by the Department of Transportation) went into effect, making it illegal for truckers to send or read text messages while driving. Truckers are still allowed to talk on their cell phones.
The new rules apply to drivers of interstate buses and trucks over 10,000 pounds, as well as local drivers like those who drive Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART), or Fort Worth Transportation (the "T") vehicles.
Bus Drivers and Cell Phone Laws
In Texas, it's illegal for school bus drivers to text and drive. However, this ban doesn't include the use of onboard devices (like the radios used by dispatchers to communicate with bus drivers). Fortunately, many of these devices don't work while the bus is in motion anyway.
Penalties for Truckers and Bus Drivers
Truckers caught texting while driving face civil or criminal penalties of up to $2,750. They could also lose the authority to operate these vehicles. Since the ban is mandated by a federal organization, it will most likely be enforced by state inspectors and highway patrol officers. School bus drivers who are caught on their phones can lose their jobs.
Why is it Dangerous for Truckers and Bus Drivers to Text?
I think the biggest reason is a fairly obvious one - it's dangerous. Texting and driving is illegal in many states, and though there aren't currently any statewide bans against texting and driving in Texas, several cities have enacted ordinances prohibiting the act. They've done it for good reason, since distracted driving now causes 25 percent of all Texas wrecks.
In addition to what we already know about texting and driving, a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study points out a few more key statistics. A truck driver dialing a cell phone is 6 times more likely to crash; a driver looking at a dispatch device is 10 times more likely to crash; and a driver texting on a cell phone is 23 times more likely to crash than a driver who's watching the road. Research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute backs this up, showing that truckers who text are 23 times more likely to get into a crash or near-crash than truckers not texting.
Although it may seem harmless, texting while driving a large vehicle forces the driver to take his or her attention away from the road for too long. When operating a vehicle that weighs 20 to 30 times more than a sedan, this sort of innatention can lead to deadly mistakes.
Have you been hurt in an accident involving a truck or bus in the Dallas Fort Worth area? You should know that you have legal rights. Feel free to give me a call to talk about your legal options.