In the past decade or so, legislation regarding driver cellphone use has been a focus to curb the dangers of distracted driving. While every state has some form of restriction for cellphone use while driving, some states are slightly more flexible with how much a driver can operate his or her phone.
For example, the hand-held cellphone ban is required of all drivers (without any caveats) in only 13 states, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
However, despite there being some flexibility to laws relating to cellphone usage, commercial fleet drivers are not permitted to use a cellphone while simultaneously operating a vehicle. And this includes the use of hands-free devices.
This is a federal rule which has been established by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), according to Phil Moser, vice president, Advanced Driver Training Services.
Why it’s Important to Say No
This no cellphone policy should be strictly enforced, said Moser, despite what legislation of a given state may permit.
“State or even municipal laws should not influence what you allow your drivers to do with regard to the use of cellphones when driving,” said Moser.
Moser stated that a driver who uses a cellphone while driving is just as likely to crash as someone who has a blood alcohol concentration of .08%, even if he or she is using a hands-free device.
Indeed, according to a study from the National Safety Council, the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by as much as 33% when talking on a phone. The study also found that drivers may miss up to 50% of their surroundings when talking on any kind of cellphone.
“Holding a phone is not the problem; it is the conversation. States that have made it legal to use hands-free phones when driving are basically promoting driving that is just as dangerous as drunk driving,” he said.
Moser further elaborated on the danger a driver who cannot resist the urge to fiddle with his or her cellphone is inviting when using his or her phone while driving.
“If you talk, text, tweet, or any other similar activity when driving, you are 23 times more likely to crash,” he said. “It is not a matter of if you will crash; it is when you will crash.”
Moser also addressed fleets that might contest by stating: Wouldn’t it then also be dangerous for drivers to speak with passengers of the vehicle?
“Studies have shown that it takes more of your mental focus to talk on the phone than it does to talk to a passenger,” he said. “If you want to break it down to more simple terms: if you are having a conversation with a passenger and something happens, at the very least they will shut up and stop distracting you. More likely, they will say: ‘Look out!’”
But despite what kinds of laws or policies are enforced, it all comes down to the decision of fleet drivers and whether or not they choose to operate a phone while driving.
“You have to build time into your schedule to make phone calls,” Moser urged of fleet drivers.