Voice-to-text technology typically receives a reputation for being a safe alternative to texting while driving. Looking at the screen of a phone while driving has a dangerous and unsafe reputation, and it is well earned. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving killed 3,166 people in 2017.
On the other hand, hands-free and voice-operated texting seem safe and convenient as more and more states are cracking down on texting behind the wheel. Voice-operated texting is a huge sales point for many manufacturers. Though this is advertised as a safety feature, it might be the opposite for consumers. Voice texting is still considered distracted driving and could be a deadly habit for thousands of truckers annually.
What about truck driver texting and driving technology? Does this provide a reasonably safe alternative to handheld cell phone use for truckers? Let's take a closer look at this issue.
How Does Trucker Texting & Driving Technology Work?
Voice-to-text technology uses a speech recognition program to convert spoken words to written language. Using voice-to-text, a person can speak into their phone and it will type out what they said as a text message. While speech recognition software has been around for decades, current voice-to-text technology has made leaps and bounds in recent years in terms of its ability to recognize words and punctuation.
For commercial truck drivers, voice-to-text technology may be accessed through personal cell phones or in-cab devices used to communicate with dispatchers or office personnel. Simple commands can be used to initiate a text and send it to a particular contact. Some devices can read incoming texts aloud to a driver. Trucker texting and driving technology can offer certain advantages, but this does not necessarily mean that it is foolproof or safe.
The Problems with Trucker Texting & Driving Technology
While voice-operated texting is convenient, it is not without its faults. Many people who use the technology know that it is not perfect and that they need to revise errors before sending a message. Whether it’s a problem with sentence structure, punctuation, or other details, voice-activated texting can’t communicate conversationally the way that most people would like. So, drivers might end up being just as distracted. This could make trucker texting and driving technology a dangerous option.
Does the FMCSA Ban Cell Phone Use While Trucking?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration(FMCSA) bans drivers from using all hand-held mobile devices while driving a commercial motor vehicle. Specifically, the FMSCA’s rules ban a driver from “holding a mobile device to make a call or dialing by pressing more than a single button.” The administration states that this rule exists because truck drivers who use hand-held devices are six times more likely to cause an accident.
The FMCSA defines using a mobile phone as the following:
- Using one hand to hold the device
- Making a call by pressing more than one button
- Reaching for a device in a way that makes the driver leave a seated driving position
Currently, the FMCSA does not ban using hands-free devices. It allows drivers to use earpieces, voice commands, or speakers to make phone calls if they do not violate the requirements listed above. Truck drivers are legally allowed to have their phone mounted if it is close to them.
Penalties for Texting While Driving a Commercial Truck
If a truck is caught violating FMCSA texting rules, they face a fine of up to $2,750 for each offense. If a driver has repeated offenses, they could face the suspension or permanent loss of their commercial driving license. Additionally, employers can face civil penalties of up to $11,000 if they allow or require drivers to use hand-held communication devices while driving.
Is Texting While Driving Legal in All States?
Besides following FMCSA regulations, truckers need to follow the laws of the state they're driving in. Some states might ban the use of hands-free devices while driving, no matter what kind of driver a person is. So, even if a device meets the standards of the FMCSA listed above, it might still be prohibited for use according to state laws.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), states have the following hands-free laws:
- 25 states ban the use of hand-held cellular devices while driving. Additionally, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands prohibit hand-held device use.
- No state completely bans cellphone use while driving but 36 states ban it for novice drivers.
- 48 states ban text messaging for any type of driver.
For a complete list of state regulations regarding hands-free cellphone use, visit the NCSL page about the subject.
Hands-Free Phone Use Is Still Distracted Driving
One study by the National Safety Council found that drivers using cell phones, even if hands-free, failed to see up to 50 percent of information on the road. So, drivers using hands-free devices are still susceptible to being distracted visually or mentally while driving.
The cognitive impairment associated with texting can lead to:
- Delayed reaction time
- Lane drifting
- Erratic driving behavior
Notably, these signs of distracted driving are like those which indicate drunk driving. Recent studies suggest that distracted drivers can be just as dangerous as drunk drivers during moments of peak inattentiveness.
Minimizing Distractions Associated with Trucker Texting & Driving Technology
Commercial drivers use various types of technology to communicate with dispatchers, navigate, track routes, and log their hours. They spend so much time on the road, that the chances of getting a personal text or work-related communication are high. Trucking companies can take a few measures to prevent distractions from trucker texting and driving technology, as well as other devices that may be present in the cab of a truck.
Distractions can be minimized by:
- Locking out Facebook, Instagram, and other social media apps while driving
- Setting an automatic response to incoming texts or putting a phone on do-not-disturb while on the road
- Using technology and devices that automatically limit certain features while the truck is in motion
- Ensuring any devices are properly secured in the cab and do not interfere with trucker visibility
Our Houston Truck Accident Attorneys Fight for Answers
Texting behind the wheel, whether manually or with voice-activated technology, is dangerous enough in a passenger car. When a commercial truck is added to the mix, consequences become much more serious. This is true even with truck driver texting and driving technology, like voice-to-text systems. If you’ve sustained injuries caused by a distracted truck driver, then you may need help from a Houston truck accident lawyer at Arnold & Itkin.
Our lawyers fight for the compensation of medical bills, lost wages, and other damages associated with serious truck accidents, including those involving trucker texting and driving technology. We’ve won billions for clients through a dedication to fighting for results for them. We will always be fierce advocates at the negotiation table, and won’t hesitate to take a case to court if the other side isn’t being fair and reasonable.
Call us today for a free consultation at (888) 493-1629. Our truck accident lawyers are ready to hear your story and help you decide the best way to obtain answers for what happened to you.