When a driver spends many hours behind the wheel, it can be tempting to break up the monotony with a little multitasking. Unfortunately, a phone call, text message, or even a sip of coffee can take a driver’s attention away from the road—and when the driver is hauling two tons of cargo, the consequences can be disastrous. Although there are laws in place to prevent truckers from distracted driving, distractions are still a major cause of semi accidents that result in serious or fatal injuries.
Trucker Behaviors That Lead to Distracted Driving Accidents
Many studies have shown the dangers of distracted driving, with some researchers estimating that nearly 80% of motor vehicle crashes involve some form of driver inattention. The potential for distraction increases in drivers who spend the majority of the workday behind the wheel, especially if employers encourage truckers to perform multiple activities while driving.
Truckers may be distracted by a variety of factors, including:
- Talking on a cellphone. Commercial drivers are expressly forbidden from holding, dialing, or even reaching for a mobile phone while driving by federal law. While truck drivers are allowed to talk on mobile phones using a hands-free device, they are not allowed to make calls or engage in the operation of a hands-free phone if doing so requires pressing more than a single button.
- Texting. Tennessee texting and driving laws strictly prohibit reading and sending text messages for all drivers, including commercial truckers. In addition, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has instituted a law forbidding interstate truck and bus drivers from texting or using hand-held phones during vehicle operation. A driver who violated these rules can face fines or the loss of a commercial driving license, while the commercial trucking company can be subject to civil penalties up to $11,000 if they permitted or required a driver to text or use a hand-held phone while driving.
- Online activities. In many cases, online activities such as surfing the web, playing games, watching videos, checking email, and posting on social media are covered under the FMCSA texting regulations. The law forbids manually entering alphanumeric text, reading text, or responding to text on an electronic device. The law can apply to phones, tablets, laptops, and any other electronic device.
- Eating meals. Drivers under pressure to meet deadlines may skip their required rest and meal breaks, opting to drive while eating full meals and drinking beverages. While this may save time, it also requires at least one hand to leave the steering wheel and some of the driver’s attention to leave the road.
- Using in-cab technology. Radios, dispatch devices, and other technology is often installed in the cab to allow a trucker to remain in contact with the employer. Any technology that is used while driving should follow the same regulations as other electronic devices: it should not require more than a single press of a button to operate. In addition, any displays or monitors should not block the view of the road, should be able to be checked at a glance (similar to mirrors or speed gauges), and be installed no lower than instrumentation in the dashboard.
- Navigation. Internal GPS and electronic navigation systems are invaluable to truck drivers, particularly when drivers take on new routes. However, these devices also have the potential to pull a trucker’s focus from the road. Drivers can reduce crash risks by programming locations into a device before setting off, allowing a trucker to examine an overview of the route (and potential alternatives) to avoid surprises while driving.
If you were struck by a commercial trucker, our attorneys can perform a thorough investigation to see who is liable for your medical bills, lost income, or permanent disability. Contact GriffithLaw today for an evaluation of your case at no cost to you, or order a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.