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.
Accident Prone Technology Leads to Accident Prone Streets
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.
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.
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 a serious truck accident. 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.