Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of accidents and traffic fatalities in the United States. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 5,500 people are killed each year on U.S. roadways, and an estimated 448,000 are injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted driving.
Any kind of distracted driving holds the potential to cause devastating accidents and significant personal injuries and damages, but the risk is much greater when a commercial truck driver drives while distracted.
A driver distraction is anything that takes the driver’s attention away from driving. Whenever a person is operating a commercial motor vehicle, that person needs to devote his or her full attention to the driving task. When drivers do not, they are putting themselves, any passengers, other motorists, and pedestrians in danger. Distracted driving can cause collisions, resulting in injury, death, or property damage.
Every commercial truck driver should refrain from distracted driving, and the following tips can help them ensure safer driving.
Truck drivers use radio communication to speak with dispatchers and coordinate logistics while on their routes, but they may also use personal cell phones to communicate with friends and family for personal reasons. While some drivers can make use of hands-free devices like Bluetooth headsets and dashboard mounts for speakerphone use, it is always best to refrain from any cell phone use behind the wheel at all times.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) is 6 times greater for commercial motor vehicle drivers who engage in dialing a mobile telephone while driving than for those who do not. Dialing drivers took their eyes off the forward roadway for an average of 3.8 seconds. At 55 mph (or 80.7 feet per second), this equates to a driver traveling 306 feet, the approximate length of a football field, without looking at the roadway!
The statistics are even worse for texting while driving. The odds of being involved in a safety-critical event (e.g., crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation) is 23.2 times greater for commercial motor vehicle drivers who engage in texting while driving than for those who do not. Sending or receiving text takes your eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, you would travel 371 feet, or the length of an entire football field—without looking at the roadway!
According to a study by the National Safety Council, contrary to what some people may think, hands-free use of cell phones is not significantly safer than hand-held use of a cell phone while driving. It is the cognitive distraction caused by being involved in a conversation that results in crashes, and this cognitive distraction occurs regardless of whether the call is being made hands-free or hand-held. Calls from cell phones while driving should only be made in cases of absolute emergencies. Even then, whenever possible, truck drivers should pull over to a safe place to park before making the call. Personal calls should be deferred to those times when the truck driver is out of service.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is the government agency responsible for oversight of the trucking industry in the United States. The FMCSA upholds various rules and guidelines for appropriate conduct in trucking companies, and this includes hours of service requirements for truck drivers. Driving for extended periods of time is fatiguing, and prior to the enactment of hours of service requirements, many commercial truck drivers pushed themselves too far without adequate rest to meet tight or unrealistic delivery deadlines.
The risk of distraction increases with fatigue. All commercial truck drivers must adhere to the FMCSA’s rules for hours of service and required rest periods, and trucking companies must do everything possible to ensure their drivers have adequate rest between shifts. They must also ensure appropriate hiring and background check procedures for all drivers and verify all drivers’ legal status for handling commercial vehicles and certification.
Truck driving is difficult and often isolating work, and unfortunately, some commercial truck drivers choose to cope with the stress of the job by consuming drugs or alcohol. Illicit substances not only increase the risk of serious accidents and can easily lead to professional and legal repercussions, but doing so also increases the risk of distracted driving. Drivers under the influence are more easily distracted by roadside events, light patterns, and more susceptible to “highway hypnosis” from watching the lines in the road pass repeatedly.
There are an estimated 2 million semi-tractor trailers in operation throughout the United States. With this many in operation on our highways, it is not surprising that motor vehicle crashes involving semi-tractor trailers frequently occur. Distracted driving greatly increases the risk of a crash. When crashes do occur, the resulting injuries are usually more significant, given the size, weight, and momentum of semi-tractor trailers.
If you have been injured in a crash caused by the operator of a semi-tractor trailer, or if a loved one has been killed as a result of a distracted truck driver, call the Milwaukee truck accident lawyers at Cannon & Dunphy S.C. We have the specialized knowledge and expertise to successfully handle truck crash cases.