Trucks swarm our highways and byways for one very important reason – increasing consumer demand. We want things, and trucks deliver them. Meanwhile, truck accidents are some of the most deadly and violent accidents on our roads. Because of their massive size, weight, and limited maneuverability, semi trucks are particularly dangerous when it comes to accident risks. If a trucker makes even a minor miscalculation or driving error, it can be very difficult to correct and lead to a lethal accident.
This is why safely operating a tractor-trailer requires experience and professional driving skills. The people who drive these behemoths are professionals, held to more stringent standards and restrictions than ordinary drivers. If a trucker chooses to drive while distracted from the considerable task of handing a semi task safely and causes an accident, the consequences are all too often lethal.
Distracted Driving: What is It?
If you drive, you may have allowed your eyes to wander from the road a time or two. Distractions can vary from quite minor, such as turning up the heat or changing the radio station, to incredibly dangerous, such as reading and texting messages on your smartphone.
Distracted driving has become such a significant safety hazard that the U.S. government has dedicated a website to the issue, distraction.gov. The site clarifies that distracted driving is categorized as any driving whereby the driver’s attention is focused on anything other than safe driving. Types of distractions fall in three categories:
- Visual distractions
- Manual distractions
- Cognitive distractions
Smartphone usage is particularly dangerous because it comprises all three types of distraction. For example, texting means the driver is looking away from the road at a cell phone (visual distraction), using at least one hand to navigate screens and enter text (manual distraction), and thinking about that task instead of driving (cognitive distraction). Other types of distracted driving include:
- Eating and drinking behind the wheel
- Conversing with passengers
- Grooming in the rearview mirror
- Using a navigational device
- Adjusting console controls, including the radio and the heating system
- Reading maps (or anything else)
- Taking and/or making calls
- Watching a television screen
Distracted drivers are dangerous, no matter what kind of vehicle they drive. But distracted truck drivers are even more dangerous. Trucks are massive, and truckers take on a massive responsibility when they drive them. A fully loaded big rig can tip the scales at 80,000 pounds. When a vehicle of this size crashes with a much smaller car, it places all the occupants of that car in grave danger.
Truckers may be even more likely to engage in distractions while driving to avoid lost time on the road and prevent boredom. Truckers may use at least one ordinary distraction at any given time simply out of habit—such as listening to the radio or nearby trucker radio conversations—and may often engage in several distractions at once, such as using a mapping system while also eating lunch. These types of habits can make distracted truckers particularly dangerous.
Demands of the Job
In addition, truckers often drive under strict deadlines that push them to multi-task while driving. They may be tempted to complete administerial and organizational tasks while behind the wheel just to stay on schedule. These additional distractions include:
- Maintaining a mandatory trucking log
- Reading a map or trucking industry paperwork
- Making calculations related to the trip
- Using a dispatch device
- Arranging overnight lodging and coordinating break stops
While these are all tasks necessary to the job, truck drivers who perform them behind the wheel are not paying full attention to the task of driving a semi truck in a safe manner.
Truckers Who Text
When a trucker texts – or otherwise engages with a smartphone – that trucker engages his or her hands, vision, and thoughts on the phone rather than on the critical task of driving safely. Truckers who text are, in fact, so dangerous that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibits truckers from texting behind the wheel.
The FMCSA puts emphasis on this prohibition by going so far as to classify texting within this regulation as “manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device. This includes, but is not limited to, short message services, e-mailing, instant messaging, or pressing more than a single button to start or end a voice communication using a mobile phone.” Put more simply, the FMCSA demands that truckers put their smartphones away—and leave them put away—when they drive.
The FMCSA enforces those texting regulations with hefty fines up to $2,750 along with potential revocation of a driver’s commercial trucking license. Because driving is a trucker’s livelihood, these consequences are significant. The ban on texting by the FMCSA is supported by research that finds that truckers who text are over 23 times more likely to cause an accident. The research also finds that drivers who text are essentially driving blind for an average of almost five seconds at a time. Five seconds is more critical for truckers than drivers of other vehicles, because trucks require a much greater distance—and more time—to reach a safe stop. In addition, a trucker who rear-ends a car is much more likely to plow that car forward into another vehicle, causing a multi-car accident with cars crushed between the truck and other vehicles in front. That factor makes texting while trucking even more lethal.
Compensation for Devastating Injuries
Truck accidents, if not deadly, often leave victims with devastating permanent injuries. Injuries commonly associated with these accidents include debilitating brain injuries and paralyzing spinal cord injuries. The physical, emotional, and future effects make quantifying a dollar amount to compensate for these injuries extremely difficult. While no amount of financial compensation can ever return you to your pre-accident self, just compensation can help you better navigate the path toward recovery.
If a Distracted Trucker Has Left You Injured, Consult With a Skilled Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you or someone you care about has been injured by a distracted trucker, you need an attorney with experience in trucking accident cases who can protect your rights and help ensure just recovery for your injuries. At The Levin Firm in Philadelphia, our dedicated legal team has the experience, skill, and compassion to fight for your legal rights, including bring suit against the trucking company if necessary, while you focus on your recovery. We are here to help. Please contact or call us at 215-825-5183 today.