Can Truck Drivers Use a Cell Phone While Driving in Texas?
Distracted driving significantly increases the risk of getting into a motor vehicle accident. Talking on the phone, in particular, is really dangerous. It’s bad enough when drivers of small passenger vehicles are on the phone. When truck drivers use a cell phone while driving, though, things can take a turn for the worse.
Trucks are large, heavy vehicles that can be hard to control. Drivers have to be paying attention so that they can stop, change lanes, or maneuver, as necessary. If a truck driver is focused on sending a text or checking social media, they’re putting themselves and others in danger.
State and federal lawmakers, well aware of the dangers cell phones can pose, have taken action. State law prohibits all drivers from using a hand-held cell phone while driving. Federal law goes one step further, banning all truck drivers from using a hand-held device while operating a vehicle. Here’s what you need to know.
Texas Cell Phone Driving Laws
In 2017, Texas became one of several states to ban the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving. Specifically, drivers are prohibited from “using a wireless communication device for electronic messaging while operating a motor vehicle.” This applies to talking on the phone, sending text messages or emails, or reading text on the screen.
Some cities in the state have even stricter cell phone laws. In Austin, cell phone bans also extend to bicyclists.
Texas cell phone laws do not prohibit drivers (or bicyclists, in some cases) from using hands-free electronic devices while driving. So, drivers can rely on Bluetooth or headphones to communicate using their phones.
Penalties For Using a Cell Phone While Driving in Texas
The first time you’re pulled over for violating the state’s cell phone ban, you’ll face a fine between $25 and $99. All subsequent offenses are punishable by a fine of between $100 and $200.
Things can get a bit more complicated if you cause an accident while driving in violation of the state’s cell phone law. If you cause great bodily injury or death, you can be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor, which is punishable by a year behind bars and $4,000 in fines. Plus, you might also be named in a personal injury lawsuit and liable for any resulting damages.
Federal Truck Driver Cell Phone Ban
When truck drivers are out on the road by themselves for long stretches of time, it’s common for them to pick up the phone and chat with friends and family. However, research by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) found that dialing a phone increases the risk of an accident by about 600 percent. At the same time, drivers can log a lot of distance by simply taking their eyes off the road for a few seconds to read a text or email. In light of this information, the federal government agency decided to prohibit truck drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving in the United States.
Specifically, the FMCSA rule restricts drivers of commercial motor vehicles from “holding a mobile device to make a call, or dialing by pressing more than a single button.” Truck drivers can only use a hands-free device that’s “located in close proximity” while driving.
Penalties For Truck Drivers Who Violate the Hands-Free Ban
Car accidents can cause a lot of damage. Accidents involving large trucks can be much, much worse. It’s no surprise the penalties for violating the federal ban on driving a truck while using a hand-held electronic device are quite harsh.
Truck drivers can be fined $2,750 each time they break the cell phone law. Their CDL can be revoked after multiple violations. If a company doesn’t supervise its drivers, it might even face a fine, itself.
Truck Drivers, Truck Companies Might Be Liable For Damages
If a truck driver does use their cell phone while driving in Texas, they might be financially liable for damages if they get into an accident. In fact, you might even have a legitimate claim against their employer since they were using a company vehicle and working at the time of the crash.
If you filed a claim, you might be able to recover compensation for:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress, and more.
You could also have a claim against anyone whose negligence caused you to get hurt.