New NY Law to Address Commercial Drivers’ Cell Phone Use

As the recent tragic train crash in Spain made clear, using a cell phone and driving a commercial vehicle can be a deadly combination. The train operator was so distracted by his cell phone conversation with co-worker that he approached a turn at nearly double the legal speed limit, killing 79 passengers.

In the United States, federal and state regulators are working hard to combat distracted driving, particularly among commercial drivers. According to the Department of Transportation (DOT), the risk of crashes, near-crashes or unintentional lane deviations is 23 times greater for commercial drivers who text behind the wheel and six times greater for those who dial a phone while driving.

Since 2010, commercial drivers have been prohibited from texting while driving. The DOT imposed a complete ban of hand-held devices a year later.

In New York, a new law takes effect in October that will strengthen the state’s cell phone law for commercial drivers. As outlined by the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee:

  • A motor carrier must not allow or require their drivers to use cell phones or portable electronic devices while driving.
  • A cell phone used by a person operating a commercial motor vehicle will not be considered “hands-free” if the driver dials or answers it by pressing more than a single button.
  • Commercial drivers are prohibited from making a phone call or using a portable electronic device while the vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device or other momentary delays.
  • A commercial driver who holds a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, his or her ear while the vehicle is temporarily stationary is presumed to be engaged in a call.
  • A commercial driver who holds a portable electronic device in a conspicuous manner while such vehicle is temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays is presumed to be using the device.

If you have been seriously injured in a distracted driving crash involving a commercial vehicle, you are entitled to pursue damages from the negligent driver and, in many cases, his or her employer.  The experienced personal injury lawyers of Michael Sepe, LLC can help you obtain the compensation to which you are entitled.