Proposed Commercial Driver Cell Phone Regulation Could Increase Safety

On September 27th, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issued a new rule prohibiting drivers of commercial motor vehicles from texting while driving. Now, the FMCSA has announced a proposed new rule that would ban these same drivers from other uses of a mobile phone - specifically reaching for, holding or dialing - while driving.

The regulation would make the roads safer for all drivers, and establish an important standard that courts would look to in determining negligence in accidents. A period for comment on the new rule is now open, and it will be some months before a final rule is issued - it is likely that the rule will go into effect in 2011. Industry groups like the American Trucking Association (ATA) have already expressed support for such a ban on using hand-held devices.

Research shows that the risk of an accident is six times greater when the driver is dialing a cell phone. The proposed regulation was spurred on by a 2004 accident in which the driver of a bus crashed into a bridge overpass in Virginia. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) determined that one cause of the accident was the driver's distraction due to use of a hands-free cell phone, although the proposed FMCSA regulation does not go so far as to prohibit the use of hands-free devices, only hand-held devices.

Anyone who drives as part of work - regardless of whether it's a commercial motor vehicle or not - should welcome the new regulation, as it will likely make the roads safer for all. Those who are involved in an accident while driving for work - regardless of who is at fault - may be entitled to workers' compensation, provided the accident occurred during the time they are considered to be on the job. Sometimes claims for workers' compensation are derailed because the worker is said to be on a "detour and frolic," a quaint legal term that means essentially that the employee was doing something else, such as picking up personal dry cleaning, at the time of the injury.

The difference between an on-the-job injury and one that occurs during a detour-and-frolic can be subtle and hard to establish. That's why it's important for anyone who has been injured as part of his or her work to talk to an experienced workers' compensation attorney, who can help document the circumstances of the injury and ensure the injured person receives all the compensation he or she deserves.