Distracted driving can cause even the most alert drivers to make a mistake on the road. When driving a vehicle as large and difficult to stop as a commercial truck, tiny mistakes can often lead to disaster. The federal government has reacted to this risk by putting rules in place to reduce the number of traffic wrecks caused by preoccupied commercial drivers.
A Tedious Line of Work
Truck drivers spend a lot of time on the road. This work can become repetitive and tiring. The tedious and time-consuming nature of this work tempts some drivers to engage in unsafe behavior. Unfortunately, anything that shifts the driver’s attention away from his job increases the risks of a traffic crash.
Some common instances of distracted driving include:
- Texting, emailing, searching for information on the Internet, dialing a phone number or searching for a phone contact.
- Talking on the phone or to someone in the passenger seat.
- Reading a map or using a navigation system.
- Eating and drinking.
- Adjusting the radio.
While many of these activities may seem harmless, they can all contribute to a distracted state while driving. The most significant risk, according to a study by Virginia Tech, is with texting and driving, which renders a driver 23.2 times more likely to experience a car accident. The study compared this risk to using a map, which increases the accident risk by a factor of seven.
Electronic Devices: The New Government Regulations
To protect everyday drivers from the dangers of collisions involving commercial trucks, the federal government has begun to regulate what professional truck drivers can and cannot do while behind the wheel. Key rules are already in place for using phones and other communications devices.
Commercial truck drivers can:
- Utilize dispatch devices that do not have texting capabilities.
- Use hands-free options to talk on the phone, such as a headpiece, speaker.phone or voice control system.
Commercial truck drivers cannot:
- Text, dial, or otherwise enter information into a device while behind the wheel.
- Read information from an electronic device.
- Hold or reach for an electronic device.
If a commercial driver violates these regulations, he or she may be subjected to fines, may become disqualified from driving professionally and may also cause the trucking company to receive up to $11,000 in fines. The driver’s employer may also receive a decrease in its Safety Measurement System rankings—a key way the government keeps track of companies with patterns of unsafe driving practices.
Finally, a driver may face consequences directly from his or her employers—including the possibility of permanent termination of his or her employment with the company.
The Risk Does Not End With Texting
While texting and driving is the most important cause of increased accident risk, other forms of distracted driving can still be dangerous. At times, electronics malfunction, a cell phone’s voice recognition does not accurately interpret a command, or a map leads to a dead end. An innocent discussion may even become heated or particularly distracting. Moreover, after a distracting or frustrating event has occurred, a driver may continue to be distracted by the negative or intensified feelings that resulted from the event. In those circumstances, drivers can still contribute to an elevated risk of causing a motor vehicle accident.
What to Do in an Accident Involving a Distracted Driver
Because it can be difficult to prove that a driver was performing distracting activities, it is best to gather as much information as possible as early as possible to effectively prove that the truck driver was at fault. Eyewitnesses, police reports, and documented verbal admissions of fault can all contribute to a strong case against the distracted driver.
If you’ve been involved in an accident with a commercial truck in Texas and believe that the driver was distracted while driving, feel free to contact Wayne Wright LLP for a FREE case evaluation today. We want to hear your side of the story.