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Can truckers use cellphones?

In the old days, truckers would stop and use payphones when they needed to get in touch with co-workers or loved ones. When they were on the road, they were essentially out of contact for hours at a time. They did use radios to talk to other truck drivers, but part of the reason for their stops was so that they could have phone access -- along with gas, food and other essentials.

Those days are over. Payphones are obsolete and nearly impossible to find. The cellphone industry completely crushed them, right along with house phones. These days, most people carry their phones everywhere they go and they can get in contact with others at any time.

So, can truckers take advantage of these changes in technology to make calls on the road?

The risk

They often cannot. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration restricts the use of handheld mobile phones. They're simply too dangerous. As their research determined, "the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event are six times greater for CMV drivers who engage in dialing a mobile phone while driving than for those who do not."

Distracted driving is a huge issue for all drivers. It takes their eyes off of the road, sometimes for seconds at a time. That may not sound like much, but it's plenty when a car can travel 100 yards without the driver watching traffic. People crash due to distraction every single day in the United States, and many of these accidents end with fatalities or serious injuries.

That's a risk that the FMCSA cannot ignore. With the sheer weight and size of a truck, a distracted driver is a massive hazard for everyone else on the road. As convenient as cellphones are, the technology simply cannot be used when it puts people in danger.

The restrictions

The restrictions essentially mean that hand-held phones cannot see use behind the wheel. Even if a driver continues watching the road and holding the wheel with one hand, that breaks the law and increases the risk.

Truckers who break this rule can face extensive fines and may lose their commercial licenses, meaning they can no longer drive.

The restrictions do allow for some form of communication, however. Truckers can use hands-free devices that they keep close enough to activate without having to reach for them. These devices must activate with the push of a single button to make a call. This way, drivers can still make essential calls without putting others in grave danger.

Your rights

Have you gotten hit by a truck driver who ignored the restrictions and got distracted? If so, you may have a right to seek financial compensation for all of your costs.

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