Why is Texting and Driving Dangerous for Truck Drivers?January 14, 2021
When a truck driver’s attention is off the road for even a few seconds, it can have devastating consequences. That is what happened when a 28-year-old truck driver took his eyes off the road for mere seconds to read a text message from his girlfriend. In the time it took to read the text message, the truck driver slammed into a car that was stopped at a red light in Washington County, Minnesota, killing the 54-year-old occupant instantly. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety produced a public service video about the accident entitled, Eight Seconds: One Fatal Decision, which has close to 80,000 views on YouTube. Many trucking companies are using the video to warn drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. Motorists who are injured in a truck accident involving distracted driving are urged to contact a skilled truck accident lawyer.
Although distracted driving includes talking on the phone, eating, changing the radio station, or reaching for something in the back seat, texting while driving is the worst type of distracted driving behavior because it involves three types of distractions, including visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions involve the driver taking his or her eyes off the road. Manual distractions involve the driver taking his or her hands off the steering wheel. Cognitive distractions take the driver’s attention off the road ahead. Texting while driving is a potentially deadly combination of all three.
It may seem relatively harmless to quickly read a text while driving. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sending or reading a text takes a motorist’s attention off the road for approximately five seconds. If the vehicle is travelling at 55 mph, this is comparable with driving the length of a football field blindfolded. When the distracted driver is behind the wheel of a massive commercial truck, this can have devastating consequences, particularly for the occupants of the passenger vehicle involved in the accident.
Therefore, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibits truck drivers from the following behavior related to cell phone use:
- Holding a cell phone to make a phone call
- Dialing a phone number
- Reaching for a cell phone in a way that causes the driver to take his or her attention off the road
- Sending a text message while driving
- Reading a text message while driving
How Common is Distracted Driving Among Truck Drivers?
Distracted driving accidents involving large trucks often cause significant property damage and severe, often fatal injuries. Unfortunately, these preventable yet deadly accidents happen far too often. The FMCSA reported the following statistics about distracted driving:
- Truck drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to cause a serious accident, ranging from an unintentional lane change to a deadly collision.
- Motorists who talk on the phone while driving are six times more likely to be involved in a serious accident.
- Commercial truck drivers who reach for an object while driving are three times more likely to cause a truck accident.
- Dialing a phone number using a hand-held device increases the risk of a truck accident by 600%.
- Of the 2.5 million car accidents that occur each year, cell phone use is involved in approximately 1.6 million crashes.
- Texting while driving is six times more likely to cause a car accident than drinking and driving.
- Distracted driving causes over 3,000 fatalities and close to 400,000 injuries each year.
What Do Truck Drivers Need to Know About Distracted Driving?
By now, it is common knowledge that talking and texting while driving, and other distracted driving behavior, is dangerous and can even be deadly. However, when a truck driver is distracted while driving, the consequences can be particularly devastating. In addition, the penalties can be quite severe. Truck drivers may face fines of over $2,700. Truck companies who tolerate drivers who talk or text on the phone while driving a massive commercial truck face fines of up to $11,000. Truck drivers who fail to obey these regulations risk losing their job and their commercial license.
Effective January 2012, the FMCSA has prohibited the use of handheld electronic devices while truck drivers are behind the wheel. This rule applies to commercial drivers that have a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more. The ruling also states the following:
- Truck drivers may not hold, dial, or reach for a cell phone while driving.
- Truck drivers may use their cell phone to make a phone call or send a text after they have pulled the vehicle to the side of the road where the truck can remain still.
- Truck drivers may use hands-free devices. However, even hand-held devices can distract a driver’s attention, so these devices should only be used when absolutely necessary.
- After two or more serious traffic violations, the state will suspend the truck driver’s commercial driver’s license (CDL).
What Should Truck Drivers Do to Avoid Texting While Driving?
Although it may seem like the commonsense answer to this question is to simply put the phone down and refrain from using it until the truck driver is no longer operating the vehicle, this is easier said than done. Too often, drivers think that a quick glance at a text or a short phone conversation will not cause an accident or jeopardize the safety of the truck driver or the other motorists in the vicinity. However, this is simply not true. The following tips can help truck drivers, and all motorists, put the phone down and focus on the road ahead and other motorists in the vicinity:
- Drivers should limit phone use to emergencies only. When a truck driver is behind the wheel of a commercial truck, they should put the phone away. However, in the event of an emergency, the truck driver can make a phone call using a hands-free device. Ideally, they should pull over to a safe spot before making the call.
- Truck drivers are urged to let friends and family know the time of their scheduled breaks so they can plan to talk during that time rather than call while the truck driver is on duty. By scheduling conversations with loved ones, truck drivers avoid feeling pressure to answer phone calls or texts from friends and family members while they are driving.
- If the phone is out of sight and out of reach, the truck driver will be less likely to want to reach for it. The phone should be kept in the glove compartment or some other spot where the truck driver will not be able to pick it up easily and make a phone call or send a text.
- The phone setting can be changed so that calls are blocked while the truck driver is behind the wheel. Once the truck driver is off duty or taking a scheduled break, he or she can release the block and continue to receive calls and texts.
How Do I Prove that Distracted Driving Caused a Truck Accident?
Unlike drunk driving, speeding, or reckless driving, distracted driving can be a bit more difficult to prove. In addition, truck companies often have a highly paid team of lawyers who have experience defending against claims of distracted driving. They will use a range of legal tactics to defend the truck company and the truck driver to avoid a costly settlement. Therefore, it is critical that truck accident victims have an experienced legal team on their side to ensure that their rights are protected and that they receive the financial compensation they deserve for the injuries they sustained in the accident. An experienced and dedicated truck accident lawyer will conduct a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident and hold the truck driver liable for the victim’s injuries if logbooks, witness reports, expert testimonies, and any other evidence suggests that the truck driver was texting, talking on the phone, or engaged in any other distracting behavior at the time of the accident.
What Damages Am I Entitled in a Truck Accident Settlement?
Truck accidents often cause extensive property damage and severe, often fatal injuries. Victims of distracted driving truck accidents may be entitled to the following compensatory damages:
- Medical bills
- Physical therapy
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium
- Punitive damages if gross negligence was involved
- Wrongful death benefits if the victim suffered fatal injuries
Baltimore Truck Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Seek Justice for Victims of Distracted Driving Truck Accidents
If you were seriously injured in a truck accident and the truck driver was distracted at the time of the accident, it is in your best interest to contact the Baltimore truck accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We have a proven track record of reaching successful financial settlements for truck accident victims. Our skilled legal team will conduct a thorough investigation and ensure that the negligent party is held liable for your injuries. We will work tirelessly to secure the maximum financial compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.
Our offices are conveniently located in Baltimore, Columbia, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.