Recently, the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration refined their definition of distracted driving, or use of a mobile device behind the wheel, for commercial motor vehicles. The initial rules were a few years old, but recently enforcement of the rules has increased. Some states are focusing on cracking down on distracted driving, and looking at commercial drivers as well. New York alone has seen an 840% increase in the number of distracted driving tickets over the last five years. And the penalties are steep--up to $2,750 and disqualification for drivers, and up to $11,000 for employers. Ensuring that your drivers know the dangers of distracted driving and also how the FMCSA defines it is vital to the safety of a company fleet. Their jobs and especially, their lives may depend on it. To help, we've distilled the five ways the FMCSA defines the illegal use of a phone behind the wheel.
It's important your drivers keep their full attention on the road. Even reaching for a mobile device can divert attention from the road. The FMCSA defines it as reaching for a mobile phone in a manner that requires the driver to maneuver so that s/he is no longer in a driving position, restrained by a seat belt.
This one may be a no-brainer, but it's using at least one hand to hold a mobile phone to make a call. This rule aligns with the hand-held device ban in many states that both consumers and commercial drivers must abide by.
The FMCSA defines dialing as pressing more than a single button on any mobile device while the vehicle is moving.
Texting includes (but is not limited to), short message services, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a Web page, pressing more than a single button to initiate or terminate a call using a mobile telephone, or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry, for present or future communication. Newly expanded definition includes manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device. *This includes pressing more than one button to initiative or terminate a call, or texting on a dispatch device.
Hopefully this is another one that is self-explanatory, but it's reading from any device that takes your hand(s) from the wheel or your attention from the road.
SO WHAT IS ALLOWED UNDER THE NEW RULES?
Hopefully it's apparent these rules are designed with the safety of your drivers, and other motorists, in mind. While a better understanding of the rules is important, it's also good to know what is allowed under the guidelines. The FMCSA recommends the following:
- Locate the mobile phone so it is operable by the driver while restrained by properly adjusted safety belts.
- Utilize an earpiece or the speaker phone function.
- Use voice-activated or one-button touch features to initiate, answer, or terminate a call.
You can get more information and view the full outline of the FMCSA's distracted driving guidelines here: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/driver-safety/distracted-driving.
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