Train Derailment Casts Spotlight On Commercial Distracted Driving Laws

Posted on August 7, 2013

Prompted by the recent incident in Spain that saw a trail derailment kill 79 persons, a new report takes a look at the state of commercial distracted driving laws in the United States.  That’s because, at the time of the Spanish incident, it’s believed that the train’s operator ignored speed warnings because he was on the phone.

Drivers of commercial vehicles, including big rigs and things like school buses, have been unable to legally text at the wheel since 2010 and unable to legally carry on a handheld cellphone-based conversation since 2011.  Drivers who are pulled over by police can face a citation worth $2,750, while their employers will fare even worse, having to fork over as much as $11,000.

The Federal Railway Administration also places stipulations against cellphone usage on train operators.  Those rules, which also came online in 2010, give the government the ability to fine or even fire operators, according to a member of the American Public Transport Association.

The importance of these anti-distraction measures should not be underestimated.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has noted that while simply dialing a phone makes a commercial driver six times as likely to crash or leave their lane and nearly crash, the threat goes up to 23 times as high if texting occurs.

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