Haz-Mat Haulers Latest Target for Distracted Driving Ban

A general consensus regarding the dangers associated with distracted driving is sweeping across America. Congress and legislatures nationwide are passing laws regulating hand-held mobile devices and texting while driving. Seemingly, commercial drivers hauling hazardous materials, (also known as haz-mat haulers) are the latest category of drivers to be targeted.

Last month, the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) held a Distracted Driving Summit to help combat the problems associated with distracted driving. Attendees offered evidence and suggestions on how to tackle the rising number of accidents and fatalities involving texting while driving or using hand-held devices on the road. SmartDrive Systems (an international fleet safety and efficiency consulting company) also attended the Summit and presented startling news regarding commercial drivers.

SmartDrive evaluated research data derived from the world's largest and fastest-growing database of recorded risky driving incidents. The company found that operating a hand-held device was the number one distracted driving behavior. The SmartDrive study also revealed that when comparing those commercial truck drivers with the highest and lowest incidences of distracted driving habits, the highest distraction group was 7.4 times more likely to be involved in a collision or near collision.

Commercial trucks only account for four percent of all registered vehicles on the road, but because of their dangerous nature, they present increased risks of distracted driving related accidents and fatalities. Hazardous material (haz-mat) haulers, in particular, bestow an even higher level of risk.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA), more than 800,000 commercial hazardous materials (from hairspray to radioactive materials to poisons) are shipped on highways across American every day. Incidences involving haz-mat haulers are known to shut down major highways for hours to days, require prompt evacuation of neighborhoods, and cause property damage.

Even though haz-mat haulers are responsible for roughly 3.5 percent of fatal vehicle crashes and only 2.1 percent of injury related crashes every year, each hazardous material crash that releases material costs over $ 500,000 in damages and expenditures.

Plans to Ban Text Messaging for Haz-Mat Drivers

Given the risks associated with commercial drivers hauling hazardous materials, the Obama administration plans to initiate bans on text messaging for truck drivers hauling hazardous materials. The FMSCA's proposed rule is subject to notice and public comment through the end of the year.

In 2009, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that more than 440,000 people were injured and nearly 5,500 people were killed as a result of distracted driver related accidents.

Contact an Attorney

If you have been injured in an automobile accident with a commercial or haz-mat driver, and you suspect distracted driving potentially contributed to the accident, contacting an experienced motor vehicle attorney in your area can help you determine if legal recourse is available.