Springfield, MO Car Crash; Distracted Semi-Truck Driving Rules

Recent Missouri Tractor-Trailer Crash

A crash Tuesday near Springfield, Missouri claimed the lives of father and daughter residents of St. Joseph, Missouri. This tragic crash occurred when their vehicle collided with a tractor-trailer truck. The driver, twenty-six year old Jason Musser, was following a semi-truck that was driving extremely slow due to mechanical problems, when he changed lanes. While changing lanes, the slow moving semi-truck and Musser’s vehicle collided, killing Musser and his five year old daughter, Charlene. Prayers go out to the family and friends of Jason and Charlene Musser in the wake of this terrible tractor-trailer accident.

What kind of regulations keep semi-truck drivings from driving negligently?New texting and hand-held phone restrictions for drivers of commercial motor vehicles:

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) have recently come together to publish a series of rules and regulations targeting interstate truck and bus drivers. These regulations specifically prohibit drivers of commercial motor vehicles who transport large quantities of hazardous materials from texting or using mobile phones while driving or operating their vehicles. These joint rules reflect the latest actions by the United States Department of Transportation to put an end to distracted driving. Violations of the new rules result in fines and disqualifications, while impacting the driver’s and federal motor carrier’s Safety Measurement System results.

The Safety Measurement System:

  • The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s safety measurement system keeps track of the on-road safety performance and driver compliance history of motor carriers.
  • This system prioritizes enforcement resources, determines safety and compliance problems that a motor carrier might exhibit, while tracking each motor carrier’s safety.
  • The safety measurement system identifies carriers for intervention that pose a higher safety risk in terms of future crash involvement and in the potential for increased ill-effects resulting from the potential presence of hazardous materials in the event of a crash.

The FMCSA Rules: No Texting & Driving

Federal commercial motor vehicle drivers are strictly prohibited from texting while driving. But what qualifies as texting and driving? According to FMCSA, texting occurs when an individual manually enters any form of alphanumeric text into, or reads alphanumeric text from, an electronic device. Obviously, this definition would include any type of messaging service, e-mailing, instant messaging, commanding or requesting information for a Web site, or dialing more than one button to initiate or end a phone call or voice communication on a hand-held mobile phone.

The Use of Cell Phones is Prohibited for Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers

These regulations restrict federal commercial motor vehicle drivers from reaching for or even holding a cellular phone to conduct a phone conversation. Drivers are similarly restricted from dialing by pressing more than a single button on their cell phones. Commercial motorists who use a cell phone while driving must only use a hands-free phone located in close proximity to them. Ultimately, the new rules restrict drivers from unsafely reaching for a device, holding a mobile phone, or pressing multiple keys or buttons on the phone.

So can tractor trailer drivers and other commercial motorists use a cell phone and still obey the rules?

According to the Federal Motorists Carrier Safety Administration, the answer to this question is yes. Drivers must locate the mobile phone in a position where it is operable by the driver, who is restrained properly by an adult seat belt. Drivers can use a mobile phone by utilizing an hands-free earpiece, or the speaker phone function. Similarly, drivers can abide by the rules by using voice-activated or one-button touch features to initiate, answer, or end a call.

What will happen if a commercial motorist is caught using a cell phone or texting while driving?

The new rules impose serious sanctions for any driver offenses. The sanctions include civil penalties of up to around $3,000, and disqualification for repeat offenses. Motor carriers themselves are similarly prohibited from requiring or even allowing their drivers to text or use hand-held mobile devices while driving. Motor carriers that allow or require this type of behavior could be subject to civil penalties of $11,000 or more. Similarly, these all of these violations will affect the above-explained safety measurement system results of each driver and motor carrier. Texting and operating a mobile phone carry the absolute worst possible severity weights against a driver’s results. It should be easy for drivers to comply with the new mobile phone rules: no reaching, no dialing, no holding, no texting, no reading.

What are the risks imposed by a commercial motor vehicle driver who texts and drives?

  • Besides the fines, penalties, and possible disqualifications, recent studies show that the odds of being involved in a crash or lane deviation are around 25 times greater for commercial motor vehicle drivers who text while driving versus those who do not.
  • Drivers distracted by their phones took their eyes off of the road on average for about 4.6 seconds.  At 55 mph, this lapse equates to a driver travelling the distance of a full football field without looking at the roadway.
  • Commercial motor vehicle drivers who dial on a cell phone while driving increase their odds of causing a wreck or a lane deviation by six times, as opposed to focused CMV drivers.

What are the Missouri tractor-trailer, and other commercial motor vehicle crash statistics?

For 2011 (the most recent year with succinct released data)

  • 3,664 large trucks and 426 buses involved in crashes
  • 1,281 large trucks and 261 buses involved in crashes where injuries were incurred
  • 1,883 injuries in crashes involving large trucks and 722 injuries in crashes with buses
  • 2,383 large trucks and 165 buses involved in tow-away wrecks
  • 61 large trucks involved in crashes where hazardous materials were present

The numbers of tractor-trailer crashes, semi-truck crashes, and other commercial motor vehicle crashes in Missouri are startling. Surely, distracted driving is a cause of a large percentage of these crashes. Hopefully the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new cell phone restriction rules can help to minimize these types of crashes.  However, if you were the victim of a truck crash, a tractor-trailer crash, a semi-truck crash, bus crash, or of a crash with another federal motor vehicle, you will want to hire an attorney who understands Missouri law and how it applies to your unique case. A car crash lawyer who has the knowledge and resources to get you the best possible result can be reached today at 314.409.7060 or toll free at 855.40.CRASH.  Call a tractor-trailer crash lawyer today; your initial consultation will be free.

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