It only takes a brief drive around your city of town to realize that distracted driving can be a real problem. Be it a kid on a skateboard with ear buds or a soccer mom with one hand on her cellphone and the other on the steering wheel of her SUV, or even a delivery driver trying to line up his next stop, people seem to be unable to go anywhere without their phones. As much as we may hate to admit it, distracted drivers are here to stay!
Distracted driving need not be restricted to cell phones, as there are many people who seem to be constantly adjusting their radios or CD players with an equal number that are distracted by children or by conversations with passengers.
In response to the epidemic of distracted driver-related accidents, many cities and states have enacted laws that restrict the use of electronic devices used by drivers to devices that can be activated by voice commands from the driver or to devices that can be operated with one hand. These restrictions apply to commercial vehicle drivers as well.
Federal safety studies have demonstrated that a commercial vehicle driver is 6 times more likely to be involved in an accident if that driver is using a cell phone. The same studies also demonstrated that drivers took their eyes off the road ahead of them for an average of 3.8 seconds. At posted highway speeds, this translates to a distance traveled of over 300 feet.
Commercial drivers must comply with two sets of laws: the local laws that apply to wherever the driver happens to be at the time as well as the regulations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which are be followed “24/7” by all drivers.
The FMCSA specifically prohibit the driver of an 18-wheeler, or any driver who is operating a commercial vehicle such as a school bus from:
“texting,” which is defined as “… manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device…”
reaching for, dialing, or using a mobile phone that requires using more than one button to dial or to answer
using any electronic device, other than a device that is used to communicate with a supervisor or a company dispatcher, while the truck is in motion unless that device can be operated with a single hand
These regulations apply to interstate trucker drivers, bus drivers, and drivers that are transporting hazardous materials. Drivers must follow these regulations or they risk losing their commercial driving licenses.
The number of trucking accidents where distracted driving was a factor is difficult to determine because most states did not begin to keep track of distracted driving accidents until relatively recently. Although safety agencies admit that their statistics are incomplete, estimates of the number of fatalities that are the result of distracted driving by tractor-trailer drivers range from 50 to 300 per year.
If an 18-wheeler driver is found to have been in a truck accident that was caused by distracted driving, the driver and his the trucking company / employer are liable for any damages that result from that accident.
While it is true that distracted truck drivers can be the cause of 18-wheeler accidents, proving that the driver was distracted could be difficult to prove. This is where having a truck accident lawyer on your side can make a big difference in how, and for how much, your personal injury claim is settled.
Many big rigs are now equipped with electronic communication devices that allow the driver, as well as the company dispatchers, to communicate with each other whenever the need arises rather than wait for the driver to stop for a break or some other reason. These devices also record the exact time a conversation began, the length of the conversation, and even where the truck was during that time by using the trucks GPS location. Many of these devices can even record data about the truck’s speed or when the truck’s brakes were applied!
Gaining access to this data would be difficult, if not impossible, for the average accident victim because the trucking company has no legal obligation to share it with anyone. If, however, you are being represented by a truck accident lawyer the company must give your lawyer a complete record of the data that was recorded in the period leading up to your accident. Should they fail to do so, they can be held in contempt of court or even censured by the state agency that regulates their insurance carrier!
If you were injured in a trucking accident it is in your best interest to contact an 18-wheeler accident lawyer to represent your personal injury claim and protect your legal right to claim damages.