New law prevents truckers from using cellphones

Federal cell phone ban for commercial drivers takes effect Jan. 3rd (WRDW-TV, January 8, 2012)

Federal cell phone ban for commercial drivers takes effect Jan. 3rd (WRDW-TV, January 8, 2012)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Sunday, Jan. 8, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Many truck drivers say they've been using hands-free devices for years. But now, there are some pretty hefty fines if they answer their cellphones on the road.

"I've really got mixed feelings on it," Josh Daniels told News 12.

Daniels drives a big rig for J.B. Hunt, and he isn't so sure about this new law.

"We're out here on the road 10 to 11 hours a day," he said. "Myself, I've got three kids and one due any time. Staying in touch with home's important."

And with the new law, drivers can only talk on a cellphone if they have a headset or if they're parked.

And the penalties for getting caught are no joke. The fine is $2,750 for the driver, $11,000 for the company and drivers can lose their licenses for 60 days.

Drivers say the punishment just doesn't fit the crime.

"That's over a month's pay for a driver," Daniels said.

But a lot of drivers have been cellphone free in their trucks for years, such as Robert Whitehead, who has been driving for Exchange Trucking Company for years.

"If somebody calls me while I'm driving, I just let them leave a message, and I wait until the next time I can stop, because it's so dangerous," Whitehead said.

James Crawford, a driver for J.B. Hunt, told News 12, "If you're looking at your phone, it's worse than a DUI. Because you'll go down the road five minutes and not realize where you've been, or who's passed you."

Drivers say that cellphones are a problem for more than just truck drivers.

"Sometimes it gets real risky when I see people on cellphones and not paying attention to where they're driving. They're switching lanes," Whitehead said.

And you may fool a cop if you're on a cellphone, but not a truck driver.

"'Cause you can see people on phones from a truck. You get a better view," Whitehead said.

But even though they think the law should apply to everyone, Whitehead said , "I think real serious of my job, and I don't want to hurt nobody, and I don't want nobody to hurt me. So, I think it's a good law."

And this law applies to bus drivers as well, not just truck drivers.

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