Distracted Driving: The Penalties and the Risks for Truck Drivers
Long-haul truck drivers have difficult jobs that involve thousands of hours on the road every year and keep them away from their loved ones for extended periods of time. Many companies rely on commercial truck drivers to transport goods safely across the country. Most truck drivers are hard working safety conscious individuals. But large trucks can be involved in traffic collisions when a truck driver or an automobile driver is distracted while driving. Given the size and weight of 18-wheelers, a collision with another vehicle often results in serious and fatal injuries to occupants of the other vehicle. It is important for commercial truck drivers to remain alert for distracted motorists and be aware of the risks involved in being distracted behind the wheel of a truck.
Learning More about Distracted Driving
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three types of distraction:
- Visual distractions that involve a driver taking his eyes off the road;
- Manual distractions that involve a driver taking his hands off the wheel;
- Cognitive distractions that involve a driving taking his mind off the task of driving.
As you might imagine, using a cell phone to talk or text can result in all three forms of distraction. When a truck driver is reaching for a cell phone to make a call or looking at the screen to dial a number, he is likely taking his eyes off the road. He may take a hand off the wheel and his focus diverted from the surrounding traffic.
For this reason, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration limits the use of all hand-held mobile phones by commercial truck drivers.
A new rule by the FMSCA prohibits truck drivers from engaging in any of the following activities concerning cell phone use while they are on the road:
- Holding a cell phone in order to make a phone call;
- Dialing on a cell phone, which includes pressing more than one button;
- Reaching for a cell phone in such a way that the driver cannot remain in a seated driving position;
- Texting while driving;
- Reading messages on a mobile device while driving;
- Drafting or typing messages on a smartphone.
Commercial truck drivers can only use a hands-free phone located in close proximity.
Truck Driver Distracted Driving Statistics
How common is distracted driving, and how does it lead to serious truck accidents? Distracted driving for truck drivers is a particularly significant concern given that large trucks tend to be involved in very serious crashes. A study of the causes of large truck crashes emphasizes that tractor trailers weigh much more than the average automobile—and thus a collision with a smaller passenger car can prove to be fatal for the automobile occupants.
According to FMCSA, the following are important statistics about distracted driving:
Truck drivers who text and drive are 23 times more likely to be involved in a serious incident—from a near-crash or unintentional lane deviation to a deadly collision.
The risk of being involved in a serious incident is 6 times higher for drivers who talk on handheld devices.
Texting requires truck drivers, on average, to take their eyes off the road for about 4.6 seconds on average. When a trucker is driving at 55 miles per hour, the distance traveled in 4.6 seconds is equal to about the length of a football field.
FMCSA’s Definition of Distraction
Truck drivers in Kentucky should understand the rules and regulations surrounding distracted driving.
Even in states where handheld cell phone use is permitted on the highways, the new FMCSA rule specifically forbids truckers from handheld mobile device usage.
The rule does not, however, restrict the use of a hands-free phone that is within close proximity of the truck driver.
What Truck Drivers Need to Know
What truck drivers need to know about distracted driving is that there are serious penalties and risks involved. If commercial truck drivers are caught violating the restrictions on use of hand-held cell phone, they can be subject to serious fines. Penalties can be up to $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for trucking companies that allow or permit drivers to use hand-held cell phones while driving a commercial motor vehicle. Moreover, disobeying these regulations can result in a trucker being taken out of service or losing their license.
In other words, a truck driver can lose his means of making a living —a commercial driver’s license— for using a handheld mobile device, and the trucker’s employer can also face penalties.
What Can Be Done to Prevent Distracted Driving
It is possible to use a mobile phone and still obey the law, as long as you use a hands-free device and remain firmly within your seat behind a properly adjusted seatbelt. Given the statistics surrounding smartphone use and trucking accidents, drivers who obey the FMCSA’s regulations are much less likely to be involved in a traffic collision or a near-crash.
A truck driver cannot control the actions of a motorist who is driving carelessly. But you can attempt to avoid an accident by remaining aware of surrounding motorists. It is important to keep in mind that distracted driving can prevent a trucker from noticing another driver’s error and having time to veer out of the way to avoid an accident. Drivers in other cars might be talking or texting while driving, and their negligence can result in an accident. As a truck driver, you can only control your own rig and how you operate it. If you remain focused on the road and alert to changing traffic conditions, you are more likely to be able to avoid a deadly collision with a distracted driver.
Contact a Florence, Kentucky Truck Accident Lawyer
At the Becker Law Office, we have years of experience handling accident claims, and we are committed to helping Kentucky residents in the aftermath of a crash caused by another driver. If you or someone you love sustained injuries in an accident caused by distracted driving in Louisville, Lexington or Florence, a dedicated truck accident lawyer at Becker Law Office can discuss your options for seeking financial compensation for your injuries. Contact us today to learn more about our services.