There are few things more dangerous on the roadways than a distracted truck driver. Not only are trucks far less capable of stopping suddenly in the event of an incident ahead, but accidents involving tractor trailers carry a much higher fatality rate than accidents involving two or more passenger vehicles only.
For these reasons, lawmakers have implemented a number of regulations concerning cell phone use, texting and driving, and various other common distractions on the road. However, when driving adjacent to an 18-wheeler, one can never be too careful – and motorists should always drive “defensively” to help anticipate an accident before it occurs.
If you recently suffered injuries in an accident involving a tractor trailer, and believe distracted driving may have been a factor, please do not hesitate to contact truck accident attorney Michael Saile today.
Texting & Driving
In today’s modern, smart-phone-obsessed culture, it is unfortunately all too common to see the driver in the next lane texting or surfing the web while careening down the interstate at 70 miles per hour. Not only is this practice dangerous and unnecessarily risky, it is also illegal (at least as applied to truck drivers nationwide).
Under regulations implemented by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), any operator of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) – which includes buses and trucks alike – is prohibited from texting at all times while operating the CMV. Under the regulations, “texting” is “manually entering text into, or reading text from, an electronic device.” The regulations further define the term to include:
- Instant messaging
- Surfing the internet
- Dialing a phone number
- “Engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry for present or future communication”
Under these regulations, a driver may face fines of $2,750 for each instance of illegal texting. Moreover, an employer can face fines of $11,000 for implementing policies requiring texting while behind the wheel. In addition to the financial penalties, drivers who receive repeat fines under these rules could face temporary or permanent driver disqualification.
While texting is one of the more common driver distractions in the commercial trucking industry, several others create a significant safety risk for nearby drivers.
As truck drivers log thousands upon thousands of miles for their employer, it is not uncommon for drivers to get bored and look for ways to ease the tedium of a long haul. Be it tinkering with the radio, looking for something in the passenger seat or simply letting their mind wander, a truck driver with his eyes off the road is exponentially more likely to create a major catastrophe – particularly if the driver immediately ahead stops or swerves suddenly.
A driving taking his hands off the steering wheel is another highly dangerous misstep that can quickly cause an accident, and drivers must often purposely engage in this type of distraction as part of their employment duties. More specifically, drivers must use onboard recording devices and constantly communicate over the radio system. While neither of these acts is technically illegal, they can quickly lead to an accident and severe injuries.
Dangers of distracted driving
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, in a study commissioned by the FMCSA, found that the risk of an adverse event (such as drifting from lane, almost crashing, or actually crashing) is 23.2 times greater for truck drivers who were texting.
Further, when a driver looks at or composes a text message, he actually looks away from the road for an approximate 4.6 seconds. For trucks moving at 55 miles per hour, this equates to a distance of 371 feet – all of which the driver travels without ever looking at the roadway! This can be especially dangerous as it can take that same distance for a truck to come to a complete stop.
In a 2012 study published by the FMCSA, researchers reviewed the prevalence of distracted driving within the context of large truck accidents. In the study, FMCSA analyzed information stemming from 719 truck accidents, and found the following trends:
- Out of the accidents reviewed, 6.4 percent clearly involved driver distraction as a direct cause of the crash.
- The most common distraction-related accidents involved drivers who “looked but did not see” an adjacent vehicle, talking on a mobile phone, or other unknown distractions
- Other recorded causes for driver distraction included using/reaching for a device, eating or drinking, distracted by other occupants, adjusting audio or climate controls and distraction by another occupant.
As is evident by the results of this study, there are multitudes of ways in which a truck driver can become distracted while on the road, many of which involve environmental factors other than the use of a handheld device.
How to prove distraction
Proving driver distraction can be a complex process, depending on the nature of the alleged distraction. If an injured accident victim believes the truck driver was using a handheld device at the time of the accident, it may be possible to subpoena the mobile phone records of that driver on the date and time the collision occurred. Thanks to modern technology, mobile phone companies are able to track not only calls and text, but also data usage and web surfing records as well.
Proving distraction based on other factors, such as interference by a passenger or distraction due to an outside event, may be more difficult as there will be no record of this occurring. Recently, however, employers have initiated a protocol of installing cameras in the cab area of a truck – namely to help avoid or dispel any allegations of driver negligence caused by misconduct while behind the wheel.
You can also use the eyewitness testimony of anyone who witnessed the accident and saw the driver texting beforehand.
Contact Cordisco & Saile LLC today
If you or a loved one recently suffered severe or fatal injuries in a truck accident in NJ or PA and believe distracted driving may be to blame, please do not hesitate to contact attorney Michael Saile today at 215-642-2335.