To help truckers minimize distraction, the government has banned interstate truckers from texting while driving and has proposed a ban on the use of hand-held cell phones while trucks are in operation.
Distracted Driving Statistics
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that approximately 5,500 people were killed and another 500,000 injured in accidents involving distracted drivers in 2009. Further, the NHTSA says that 16 percent of all 2009 traffic deaths were caused by distracted driving.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, citing the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, reports that approximately 10 percent of accidents involving large trucks occurred because of driver distraction. The LTCCS notes that eight percent of the driver distraction was external, while two percent of distraction was internal.
Types of Distractions
The NHTSA defines distracted driving as any nondriving activity that takes a driver’s attention from the task at hand — driving.
According to the NHTSA, drivers face three main types of distraction:
1. Visual — distractions that avert the driver’s eyes from the road
2. Manual — distractions that remove the driver’s hands from the steering wheel or stick shift
3. Cognitive — distractions that take the driver’s mind away from what they are doing, driving
Fitting into these three distraction types are a whole host of activities, including:
- Texting while driving
- Reaching for, dialing or talking on a cell phone
- Talking with passengers
- Using a computer or watching a DVD
- Talking on the CB
- Reading a map or using other navigation system
- Changing the radio station or CD
What makes some activities more dangerous than others is when they involve more than one type of distraction. This is why texting while driving is seen as extremely dangerous — it involves all three types of distraction!
Interstate Truckers Banned From Texting While Driving
Understanding the dangers of distracted driving, specifically those caused by sending or reading text messages, prompted the U.S. Department of Transportation to ban interstate truckers and bus drivers from sending texts while driving. Truckers found to be in violation of the rule are subject to civil and criminal fines of up to $2,750.
Truckers who send or read text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident or near miss, according to research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Research cited by the DOT shows that texting removes drivers’ eyes from the road for approximately five seconds; a vehicle traveling at highway speeds can cover the length of a football field in about five seconds, according to the New York Times.
Truckers Banned From Talking on Cell Phones?
To further fight distracted driving, the DOT proposed a law in mid-December 2010 that would completely ban truck drivers from using hand-held cell phones while driving. The rule would prohibit interstate truckers from reaching for, holding or dialing cell phones during semitruck operation.
Drivers found to be in violation of the proposed rule would face fines up to $2,750 for each offense. For multiple violations, drivers would face the possibility of losing their commercial driver’s licenses. Motor carriers would face a maximum penalty of $11,000 for allowing drivers to use hand-held phones.
While the safety aspects of the proposed law are understood, not everyone supports the proposed rule. Omaha.com reports that some truckers look at cell phones as being a necessary part of their jobs, allowing them check in with clients, and to stay in touch with friends and family while away from home.
Omaha.com also describes the comments of industry groups such as the American Trucking Association and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association on the proposed rule. The ATA supports a ban on hand-held cell phones, but would not support a ban on hands-free technology. OOID suggests that there are already enough restrictions on cell-phone use, and other safety issues deserve more focus.
Injured in an Accident Involving a Trucker?
Truckers and motor carriers are subject to many rules that other drivers are not, including restrictions on hours of service, requirements concerning accurate work-hour logging and restrictions on weight. These rules make lawsuits seeking compensation for injuries after accidents difficult. It is extremely important that your attorney understands these intricate rules and how their violation may impact your case.
Speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer if you have been injured in an accident involving a semitrailer. You may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages and vehicle repairs.