Recently, the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration refined their definition of distracted driving, or use of a mobile device while operating a motor vehicle, for any commercial motor vehicle. The initial rules were a few years old, but recently enforcement of these distracted driving laws has increased. Some states are focusing on cracking down on distracted driving, and looking at commercial drivers as well, due to the rapid rise in texting while driving, handheld device and portable electronic device usage, leading to an alarming increase in distracted driving crashes. Regardless of it being a small (notification) or large distraction (texting and driving) from a mobile device, one second is all it takes for fatal crashes to occur while in a motor vehicle. New York law enforcement alone has seen an 840% increase in the number of distracted driving tickets over the last five years from the increased enforcement of these distracted driving laws. And the penalties are steep--up to $2,750 and disqualification for drivers, and up to $11,000 for employers. Ensuring that your drivers are educated on the laws on distracted driving, consequences of distracted driving and distracted driving safety is defined by the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) as 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 to ensure safe driving in any traffic condition. Even reaching for a mobile device can divert attention from the road, leading to an accident. The FMCSA defines it as reaching for a mobile phone in a manner that requires the driver to maneuver so that he or she 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. Holding any item, mobile device or not, diverts your focus off the road and is a violation of traffic safety. Research shows that both holding a device and talking drastically reduce your attention and focus to your field of vision.
The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines dialing as pressing more than a single button on any mobile device or portable electronic device while the vehicle is moving.
Texting includes (but is not limited to), short message services (text messaging), 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 on a wireless communication device. Newly expanded definition includes manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device. *This includes pressing more than one button to initiate 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 people in a vehicle, 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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