Distracted driving is one of the most significant causes of motor vehicle accidents. This risk is even more significant when a driver is trying to dial a number or carry on a conversation while behind the wheel of a vehicle that may be sixty feet long and weigh more than forty tons.

However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration only proposed a final rule banning handheld cell phone use by interstate carriers on November 23, 2011. The rule will become effective thirty days after publication in the Federal Register.

Mobile phone use while driving a commercial truck is extremely dangerous because semi-trucks are not as responsive, so even a brief moment of glancing at the keypad on a cell phone can result in a serious Atlanta trucking collision. While the new rule will reduce the risk of mobile phone-related commercial trucking accidents, some safety advocates believe the new regulations did not go far enough. Driver distraction is usually viewed as a three-tiered phenomena including visual, manual and mental distractions. While the restriction on mobile phone use while operating a big-rig will reduce the manual and visual distractions by eliminating the need to look at or manipulate the keypad, it does not address the mental distraction of engaging in a telephone conversation when driving a commercial truck.

While handheld bans on mobile phones while driving motor vehicles have been implemented in other contexts, the results are mixed in their effectiveness. A study conducted by the Highway Loss Data Institute examined actual insurance claims filed after auto collisions in three states and the District of Columbia that had implemented laws limiting mobile phone use while driving to hands-free calling. The study found no significant difference in the number of insurance claims. Another study conducted by the Institute for Highway Safety found that hands-free use does reduce talking while driving. The conclusion to draw from the two studies seems to be that the mental distraction of talking on a mobile phone may be the most significant driving distraction posed by mobile phones. Ironically, it is also the risk that has been left untouched by most anti-cell phone laws.

The federal agencies stopped short of a complete ban on mobile phones while operating big-rigs because of evidence suggesting that the greatest risk is posed by reaching for a mobile phone or dialing on a mobile phone. The agencies relied on studies indicating that a commercial driver is three times more likely to be involved in a collision when reaching for a mobile phone and six times more likely when dialing on a cell phone.

Like existing bans on handheld mobile phones while driving, the new trucking ban should prove effective in affecting behavior because the penalties are significant. A truck driver who violates the ban may face a federal civil fine of up to $2750 and may be disqualified from driving for multiple offenses. If a commercial carrier is found to have permitted their drivers to use handheld phones while driving, they may be fined up to $11,000. If you have been injured in a collision with a tractor-trailer in Atlanta or anywhere in Georgia, the experienced Georgia trucking collision attorneys at Montlick and Associates will provide you with a free consultation to discuss your rights to compensation.