18-wheeler crash prompts cell phone usage ban for truck drivers

Posted: Sep 13, 2011 10:31 PM EDTUpdated: Sep 13, 2011 10:32 PM EDT

By Melissa McKinney


He made a call that lasted just one second, but the crash that followed killed 11 people.

The accident happened in March of 2010 on an interstate in Kentucky. A hearing revealed that the truck driver from Jasper, Alabama was making a call on his cell phone.

Kenneth Laymon’s truck crossed the median and crashed into a van carrying a Mennonite family.

After that horrific crash, a national highway safety agency wants states to ban texting and hand-held cell phone use by truckers and commercial drivers when they’re behind the wheel.

Alabama has no such law, but the Alabama Trucking Association would like to see one and not “just” for big rig drivers.

Folks at the trucking association have been working with legislators to pass a law banning hand held communication devices for all drivers. They say the problem affects everyone.

And one truck driver couldn’t agree more.

“It’s definitely gotten worse through the years,” says Leo Chenevert.

Chenevert’s been behind the wheel of a truck for more than 30 years. He remembers when pay phones were the only way to call home.

“If a driver had to pull over to use a pay telephone, he wouldn’t be running through the median strip running over people.”

He admits he’s used a cell phone while driving.

“But it’s short and sweet, to the point, and I’m done.”

“Everyone needs to be banned from using a cell phone or at least texting while driving,” says Gene Vonderau with the Alabama Trucking Association.

He says the burden doesn’t just fall on truck drivers. He believes all motorists should be held to the same standard.

“It’s a danger to everyone on the road.”

The recommendation by the National Transportation Safety board to ban truck drivers’ hand held cell phone use will now go to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and all 50 states for action.

“We hope that maybe in the next session it will happen,” says Vonderau.

“We’ve become so dependent on electronic devices…we’re our own worst enemy,” adds Chenevert.

He says he can always spot a driver using a phone–they’re usually not going the speed limit.

His suggestion?  Get a hands-free device.

Federal law already bans cell phone use for any truck drivers carrying hazardous goods.

At Reeves, Aiken & Hightower, LLP, our accomplished trial attorneys have over 70 years combined trial experience and stand ready to hold trucking companies and their drivers fully responsible when their negligence causes serious injury and death.  We welcome the opportunity to sit down and personally discuss your case. Compare our attorneys’ credentials to any other firm. Then call us for a private consultation.  www.rjrlaw.com