US Government Proposes Cellphone Ban for Truck Drivers

December 19, 2010

On December 17, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Association proposed a new regulation prohibiting interstate commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand held cell phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle. Under the proposed rule, a commercial driver found reaching for, dialing or holding a cell phone while driving will face a fine up to $2,750. Additionally, if a commercial driver is found to violate state law regarding hand held devices two times in a three year period they would be subject to a 60 day suspension of their Commercial Drivers License. If a commercial driver is found to violate state law regarding hand held devices three times in a three year period they would be subject to a 120 day suspension of their Commercial Drivers License. A motor carrier found to allow its drivers to utilize hand held devices would be subject to a fine up to $11,0000.

The Department of Transportation has noted that 5,000 people were killed and another 500,000 injured in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2009. A study of distracted drivers indicates that an individual reaching for a phone while driving is three times more likely to be involved in an accident than an individual who is paying attention to the road. The study also found that individuals dialing their hand held phone while driver were six times more likely to be involved in an accident than an individual who is paying attention to the road.

There is a 60 day comment period on this proposed rule.

— Erik Anderson, Esq.

Reardon Anderson represents the interests of businesses, insurance companies and individuals throughout New Jersey and the metropolitan New York City area. Please visit our website at http://reardonanderson.com to learn more about our firm.

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EZ Pass records admissible at trial

October 25, 2010

An unpublished Appellate decision concerning a domestic violence action may have ramifications in the defense of trucking claims. In S.S.S. v. M.A.G., 2010 WL 4007600 (N.J. Super A.D.), at the hearing for a final restraining order, the plaintiff testified that on October 4, 2009, the defendant called the plaintiff to meet with him the next day. On October 5, at 9:00 a.m. the plaintiff left her classroom at Rutgers-Newark and entered defendant’s car. Defendant then drove the plaintiff to a motel. At the motel, plaintiff alleged that the defendant pushed the plaintiff, grabbed her arm and shoved her. According to the plaintiff, the assault occurred in Jersey City at 9:30 a.m. and she returned to school at 10:00 a.m.

The defendant, appearing pro se, testified that the plaintiff’s testimony was “all a lie.” He offered a letter from his employer stating that the company’s records show the defendant arrived at work at 8:35 a.m. and left at 5:00 p.m. The judge refused to accept the letter, ruling it was hearsay.

The defendant also offered into evidence his EZ Pass records showing he crossed the Bayonne Bridge into Brooklyn at 8:16 a.m. The defendant argued that it would be impossible for him to cross the bridge at that time, arrive at work at 8:35 a.m. and be able to arrive at Rutgers-Newark to pick the plaintiff up at 9:00 a.m. The judge refused to accept the EZ Pass records.

The Appellate Division noted that:

N.J.R.E. 803(c) (6) provides that a business record is admissible as an exception to the hearsay rule, provided that the writing was ‘made at or near the time of observation,’ was prepared in the regular course of business and it was the ‘regular practice of that business’ to keep such a record. Business records maintained in a computer system are not treated differently from hard copies made because they are stored electronically. Although no reported decision has ever considered whether EZ Pass records qualify as a business record under N.J.R.E. 803(c) (6), such records are not qualitatively different from the many records that have been so admitted.

How this decision will impact the defense of trucking claims remains to be developed. Potential uses for EZ Pass records at trial include: showing compliance or a violation of the hours of service regulations; demonstrating a “habit” of speeding or adherence to the speed limit; or allowing jurors to figure out average speeds a trucker drives (e.g. , if the driver enters the toll plaza at 2 p.m., the accident occurred at 2:30 p.m. and the accident scene was 35 miles from the toll plaza a juror will “do the math” and find that the driver was averaging 70 mph).

—Thomas Reardon III, Esq.

Reardon Anderson represents the interests of trucking companies, insurance companies and individuals throughout New Jersey and the metropolitan New York City area. Please visit our website at http://www.reardonanderson.com to learn more about our firm.