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Identifying & Proving a Dangerous Cause of Many Truck Accidents: Distracted Driving

Identifying & Proving Distracted Driving During Truck Accidents

How often do you see the drivers on the roadway staring at their cell phones? While distracted driving or texting while driving is a notorious problem for teenage drivers, many people assume that professional drivers know the dangers of such behavior. Unfortunately, this endemic problem also exists among the professional drivers carrying up to 80,000 pounds on public roadways.  

According to a study conducted in 2009 by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 71% of all truck accidents are the result of distracted driving. With increased smartphone adoption and the exponential increase in cell phone applications, such problem may be even more pervasive today.  

This is the second blog in a series discussing unique aspects of truck accident cases. Our first blog focused on unique digital evidence that can be used to prove a trucking accident case, and the importance of retaining an experienced trucking accident attorney or law firm early on to ensure that critical evidence is promptly preserved. This blog will focus on how such evidence can be used to show a critical problem in the trucking industry that we have uncovered in many trucking crashes: distracted driving.   

What Exactly is Distracted Driving? 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts the driver’s attention from driving, including the following: 

  • Talking on a cell phone or texting; 
  • Eating or drinking; 
  • Talking to other people in the vehicle; 
  • Fiddling with any system on the vehicle (i.e. radio or entertainment systems); and 
  • Anything else that takes the driver’s attention away from the task of safe driving.1

Why is Distracted Driving Such a Common Cause of Commercial Truck Accidents? 

It is obvious that if a driver is looking away from the road, a crash can happen for many reasons. However, this blog will explore the unique aspects of the trucking industry that makes this problem even worse, and the resulting dangers of distracted driving that can cause catastrophic crashes.  

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, which are the laws that govern commercial carriers, impose bare minimum restrictions to prevent extreme fatigue. In general, a driver can drive 11 hours during a 14-hour period and then must remain off duty for 10 consecutive hours. Further, a commercial driver cannot be on duty for more than 60 hours during a 7-day period. Regardless of these guardrails, commercial drivers are alone and confined to a seat for long periods of time while often traveling on stretches of desolate highway. 

While these are bare minimum federal regulations, many trucking companies incentivize commercial truck drivers to get as close to these bare minimum standards as possible, rather than to take more breaks. One such example is through how truck drivers are paid. Many drivers are paid by the amount of miles driven. Such has given rise to the popular trucking slogan, “If the wheels ain’t turning, you ain’t earning.” This mindset encourages drivers to take as few breaks as possible in order to get paid as much as possible. 

What is the Result of Distracted Driving when Driving a Semi or Tractor Trailer? 

When a driver becomes distracted by boredom, the radio, a cell phone or smartwatch, or even fatigue, it can result in inattention blindness. This creates a situation where even if the driver may be looking ahead, his mental or visual focus is diverted elsewhere. For example, even where a driver is looking ahead, but talking on a cell phone, he may fail to see up to 50% of the information in front of him. As a result, some studies have shown that a driver talking on a hands-free cell phone is equally impaired to a driver with a .08% blood alcohol content. Another study found that drivers talking on their cell phones increased the risk of a crash by 536%.   

None of this is a secret to the trucking industry. In fact, numerous safety organizations and trade organizations have warned trucking companies about these risks. So why do some trucking companies choose to still incentivize drivers to push the limits of safety rather than prioritize safe driving? The simple answer is profit.

What Kinds of Distracted Driving Trucking Accident Cases has Plakas Mannos Handled

What Kinds of Distracted Driving Trucking Accident Cases has Plakas Mannos Handled? 

Unfortunately, our team of trucking accident attorneys has seen it all when it comes to distracted driving trucking crashes. The cases we have handled have included: 

  • Truck drivers who are distracted due to talking on the phone at the time of the crash; 
  • Truck drivers who are distracted while fighting off fatigue, from either working longer than legally permitted, or not sleeping during off times and instead utilizing their electronic devices; 
  • Truck drivers who are distracted by a distraction inside their truck cab or on the road; and 
  • Truck drivers who are distracted by a cell phone or telematics screen. 

In one case, we uncovered that the telematics system sent automatic alerts to the trucking company that its driver had a habit of slamming on the brakes. The trucking company never coached the driver to avoid distractions, and unfortunately, he crashed into a motorcycle while talking on his cell phone.

The Consequences of Distracted Driving for Truck Drivers Can be Catastrophic 

When a commercial truck driver becomes distracted and causes a crash, the ensuing damages for the other drivers – as well as truck driver – can be catastrophic. Our firm has handled cases for numerous clients who have suffered catastrophic, life-changes injuries as a result of trucking accidents, as well as clients who have lost a loved one in a trucking accident. Whether your case involves a catastrophic injury or wrongful death, our team of lawyers for semi-truck accidents is here to help.

The Consequences of Distracted Driving for Truck Drivers Can Be Catastrophic

Plakas Mannos: Your Dedicated Law Firm for Truck Accidents 

At Plakas Mannos, we don’t just look to the driver’s actions in causing a crash, but also look to whether the trucking company adequately trained and monitored its drivers to ensure drivers were empowered to avoid the known risks of distracted driving, which drastically increase the risk of catastrophic commercial truck accidents.   

If you do not act quickly, you risk losing valuable pieces of the story of your case forever. Don't let valuable evidence slip away. Contact a commercial truck accident attorney today to safeguard your case and secure your future.



About the Authors

Headshot of Collin Wise Maria

Collin Wise concentrates on car crashes, commercial truck accidents, personal injury and wrongful death litigation, as well as business litigation. Maria Klutinoty Edwards handles serious car and trucking accident cases, medical malpractice, industrial accidents, personal injury, wrongful death cases, as well as business litigation.

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