Any time a motorist drives while distracted, they put their lives and the lives of others on the road at risk. This is particularly true for commercial truck drivers who pilot exceptionally large and heavy big rig vehicles, which are capable of causing catastrophic damage when involved in an accident. The potential of commercial vehicles to inflict serious—and often fatal—damage during an accident is one reason why the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expressly prohibits several common distracted driving behaviors and imposes stiff penalties for commercial drivers who fail to comply. Read on to learn more about distracted driving statistics, common truck driver distractions, and what you can do if you were injured in an accident caused by a distracted commercial driver.
Distracted Driving Accident Statistics
- More than 11,000 truck accidents across the country involved distractions that occurred outside of the commercial vehicle's cab (such as billboards or buildings), according to three years of data collection performed by the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
- Driver distractions are a leading factor in accidents and near-crashes, according to a 2006 FMCSA study, which found that driver inattention in the three seconds preceding the accident or near accident played a role in up to 80 percent of crashes
- 71 percent of commercial or large-truck accidents happened while the truck driver was focused on something other than piloting the vehicle, according to a 2009 FMCSA study.
According to this and other research, staying focused on the task at hand is an essential step in remaining safe on the road.
Common Distractions for Commercial Truck Drivers
While commercial truck drivers can be tempted by many of the same distractions as other motorists, they're also subject to certain career-specific types of distractions. Common driver distractions include:
- Eating or drinking while driving. Having a snack or meal while driving may seem like a great way to kill two birds with one stone. However, because eating while driving requires you to remove at least one hand from the wheel, it makes it much easier to get into a serious accident.
- Focusing on things outside the vehicle. Billboard is designed to get your attention, but if you spend too long focusing on roadside advertisements—or gawking at a wreck on another part of the road—you put yourself and others at risk.
- Texting while driving. Texting requires drivers to take their hands off the wheel, and their eyes and mind off the road, which is why texting while driving is expressly forbidden for commercial drivers.
- Using a handheld cell phone. Using a handheld cellphone on the road makes drivers three times more likely to be involved in an accident. Federal regulations prohibit commercial drivers from using hand-held cell phones on the road.
- Using a dispatching device or reading maps. When a message comes in on the dispatching device, answering it can be second nature to commercial drivers. However, dispatching devices—as well as navigating devices—can be a serious distraction on the road.
Commercial drivers caught driving while distracted can face fines of up to $2,750, while employers can be fined up to $11,000 if they allow drivers to use handheld devices behind the wheel. Repeat offenders may be disqualified from driving commercially for up to 120 days.
Were You Injured in a Truck Accident?
If you were involved in a serious automobile accident caused by a distracted commercial driver, you're lucky to have escaped with your life. However, the aftermath of the accident may follow you for years, in the form of unexpected medical expenses for physical and psychological injuries sustained in the accident. Experienced injury recovery professionals, such as the seasoned truck accident and injury attorneys with the Packard Law Firm, can help you pursue financial compensation for damages. Contact our San Antonio law office today for a free evaluation of your case.