Distracted driving continues to be one of the most common causes of serious car accidents in this country. On any given day, if you are driving on a busy highway and you happen to glance at the other motorists on the road, it is highly likely that you will see a driver talking on the phone, reading, or sending a text message, or adjusting the radio.
Unfortunately, despite the evidence to the contrary, too many motorists, including truck drivers, think that they can send a quick text or talk on the phone without any negative consequences. This is quite disturbing when you consider the fact that it takes approximately four seconds to send a text, which means that the driver’s attention is off the road for that period of time. If the truck driver is traveling at a speed of 55 miles per hour, this is equivalent to driving a massive, 80,000-pound vehicle the length of a football field blindfolded. When trucks and passenger vehicles collide, the consequences are usually drastic, but distracted driving accidents are preventable. If you are severely injured in a distracted driving truck accident, do not hesitate to contact a highly skilled truck accident lawyer.
What Are the Most Common Distractions Among Truck Drivers?
When a commercial truck driver is involved in a distracted driving accident, the collision often causes significant property damages and severe injuries and fatalities. Oftentimes, it is the occupants of the passenger vehicle involved in the crash that suffer the most devastating injuries. According to one study, distracted driving is the second-highest cause of truck accidents in this country. The following are example of some of the most common distractions:
- Objects in the environment: Truck drivers encounter a wide range of objects on the road from other vehicles to bright lights on billboards and animals that dart across the road. According to a study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), roughly 11,000 truck accidents across the country involved distractions that were external to the truck cab.
- Smartphones and hand-held devices: Phones continue to be a major cause of distracted driving accidents among all drivers, including commercial truck drivers. Phone distractions are uniquely dangerous because it diverts all several forms of attention at the same time. Talking or texting takes the driver’s visual attention off the road. Holding the phone or sending a text requires the truck driver to take his or her hand off the wheel, which is a manual distraction. Using a smartphone is also a cognitive distraction because the driver is focusing on the text or the phone conversation rather than on the task of driving.
- Dispatching devices: Unlike other drivers, commercial truck drivers use dispatching devices to communicate with dispatchers on a regular basis. While these devices are a vital part of a truck driver’s job, they can also pose a serious safety hazard if they use the device while they are driving. A study found that the use of dispatching devices while driving made drivers nine times as likely to be involved in a crash.
What Do All Truck Drivers Need to Know About Distracted Driving?
All drivers are responsible for understanding the rules of the road, from following the posted speed limits to avoiding tailgating and other unsafe driving habits like distracted driving. This is particularly important for truck drivers who are behind the wheel of an 80,000-pound truck. When it comes to distracted driving, all truck drivers are responsible for understanding the following rules and regulations:
- FMCSA regulations prohibit truck drivers from texting or using hand-held devices while operating a commercial truck used for interstate commerce.
- If a truck driver is caught texting or using a hand-help device, he or she will be subject to fines, disqualifications and losing his or her job.
- These rules do not apply to the use of dispatching devices, provided they are being used as part of the company’s fleet management system, and not for texting.
- According to the research, commercial truck drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a serious accident compared to those who refrain from texting.
- The same study found that commercial truck drivers who made phone calls while driving were six times more likely to cause a serious truck accident.
- The use of hands-free devices for making phone calls or sending texts is generally acceptable.
- The FMCSA rules regarding texting and talking on the phone, regardless of what the distracted driving laws are in the state that the driver is in.
What Penalties Do Truck Drivers Face for Distracted Driving?
Due to the extreme and devastating nature of truck accidents, and the catastrophic injuries that they often cause, truck drivers who are caught driving while distracted often face serious consequences. The following are examples of penalties for distracted driving:
- Truck drivers could face fines of up to $2,750 if it is determined that they were distracted driving. Truck drivers could also face significant civil fines.
- Repeat offenses may result in the driver being out of service for up to 120 days or disqualified.
- Trucking companies can be fined up to $11,000 if they allowed or required their drivers to use hand-held devices while operating a commercial truck.
- Any violations may have a negative impact on the truck company’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) ratings.
- Penalties for serious traffic violations are taken from existing FMCSA guidelines.
What Should Truck Drivers Do to Avoid Distracted Driving?
Truck drivers spend countless hours behind the wheel, often driving through the night. It can be difficult for truck drivers to stay focused and keep their attention on the road. However, even a mere second or two of distraction can have devastating consequences if a massive truck crashes into a passenger vehicle that is in the vicinity of the truck. All truck drivers are urged to keep the following distracted driving safety tip in mind:
- Avoid reading billboards or advertisements. You may not think that a devastating accident can occur in the time it takes to read a billboard, but if a truck driver is distracted for even a few seconds, and another vehicle gets too close to the truck, it can cause a serious truck accident.
- Do not read or send text messages while driving. All motorists must put their phones and other hand-held devices away while they are driving. This is particularly important for truck drivers due to the severity of the property damage and injuries that a truck accident can cause. Texting while driving is illegal in many states and prohibited by the FMCSA. If a truck driver needs to make a phone call, or send a text message, he or she should pull into a truck stop or rest area. If it is an emergency, he or she should use a hands-free device to make or accept an important phone call.
- Avoid using a dispatch device while driving. These devices should not be used when a truck driver is operating the truck.
- Do not manually dial a phone number while driving. Dialing a phone number can take several seconds, during which time a truck driver’s eyes are off the road. If it is an emergency, the truck driver should either pull over, or use the voice control feature so that he or she can keep his or her attention on the road.
- Use a GPS for navigation assistance. Rather than using a cumbersome map that requires the driver to take his or her attention off the road for minutes at a time, the GPS navigation system provides audio instructions, which is a much safer option since the driver can focus on the road ahead, and the other vehicles in the vicinity while listening to the directions.
- Do not eat or drink while driving. Recent studies have found that eating and drinking while driving is even more distracting than talking on the phone. Truck drivers should wait to eat until they can pull into a truck stop or rest area.
Dayton Truck Accident Lawyers at Wright & Schulte LLC Advocate for Victims of Truck Accidents
If you or someone you know suffered a severe, or life-threatening injury in a truck accident, you are urged to contact the skilled Dayton truck accident lawyers at Wright & Schulte LLC at your earliest convenience. Our dedicated legal team will conduct a thorough investigation, assist you with every step of the claims process and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 937-222-7477 or contact us online. Our offices are in Dayton, Ohio, where we serve clients in Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Centerville, Toledo, Youngstown, and Miamisburg.