A multi-million dollar personal injury lawsuit settlement has prompted one North Carolina trucking company to ban its drivers from hands-free cellphone use while behind the wheel — and other companies could follow suit.
Suit Claims Truck Driver Was Talking On Phone During Crash
The lawsuit against Unifi Inc. came after a crash in which one of the company’s drivers rear-ended a passenger vehicle that had slowed to turn into a driveway.
The truck driver initially claimed that he wasn’t on his phone at the time of the crash, but investigators say that phone records indicated that he had been using his phone for seven hours of his eight and a half hour driving shift on the day of the crash. Phone records also indicated that the driver was talking on his phone at the time of the rear-end crash.
Lawyer: Policy Limiting Phone Use Was Not Strongly Enforced
Unifi had a policy on the books at the time of the crash that forbade drivers from using the phone for more than two minutes at a time and only with a hands-free Bluetooth device.
A lawyer representing the people in the car that was hit says that the company wasn’t doing enough to actively enforce that policy: “All they did each year was have their drivers sign a piece of paper saying they wouldn’t use their phones for more than two minutes. They never did a spot-check of their driver’s phone logs. What good is a rule if it isn’t being enforced?”
Lawsuit Could Encourage More Companies To Ban Hands-Free Devices
Unifi agreed to settle the lawsuit for $3.75 million. They also agreed to a total ban of cellphone use, hands-free or otherwise, for their active duty drivers.
Charleston lawyer Douglas Jennings says that he hopes that the results of the suit will prompt more trucking companies to put hands-free cellphone bans on the books.”This company has 60 trucks using the roads in South Carolina every day, and until last week their drivers were engaged in dangerous behavior by talking on their cellphones for hours and making three-way calls. Now that has changed, and hopefully more trucking companies will recognize the danger and get on board.”
The Post and Courier