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Cell phone use, texting sharply restricted for many truckers

Although many states have their own texting and driving laws, many California truckers also have to follow federal trucking regulations that further limit a commercial driver from using his or her phone or other electronic device while driving. As with most other safety rules, these regulations are ultimately designed to prevent a serious tractor-trailer accident from being caused by a distracted truck driver.

For its part, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration concluded that when a trucker or other commercial driver chooses to text while driving, they are over 20 times more likely to be involved in what the FMCSA calls a safety-critical event, a term which includes drifting in to another lane or a near miss as well as an actual accident. This isn't surprising given that the typical person who texted loss sight of the road for almost 5 seconds.

Under the FMCSA's rules, texting is prohibited when behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle. The definition of texting under the FMCSA's rules is broad, and includes even responding to dispatches from one's employer. Even dialing more than one button to make a call on one's phone is considered texting under the rule.

For breaking these rules, a driver can face fines of $2,750 for texting, and employers who tolerate cell-phones or the use of other devices while behind the wheel can face up to $11,000 in fines per incident. It is also important to remember that, for serious or habitual violations, a driver's privilege to operate a commercial vehicle may be revoked.

In addition to administrative penalties, a trucker who caused an accident, either in the Los Angeles area or otherwise, because of texting and driving can likely be held accountable for any injuries he or she caused through a personal injury cause of action. The driver's violation of these regulations can be used as evidence of the driver's negligence in such cases.

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