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Is Distracted Driving a Problem with Semi-Truck Drivers?

Distracted driving has been a topic of debate around the country for some time now. Almost anyone who drives an automobile has witnessed other drivers paying more attention to their smartphones than to the road and the driving conditions around them. You might have even observed a businessman tying a necktie or a businesswoman finalizing her makeup, all while operating a motor vehicle at a high rate of speed. Parents drive while dealing with unruly children in the back seat. Even those of us who focus on safe driving have probably been distracted on occasion.

But what about semi-truck drivers? After all, they attend driving school and have to obtain special licenses to become qualified for their jobs. They are skilled in the operation of tractor-trailer trucks and drive thousands of miles as professionals. Do they fall prey to distracted driving like other drivers? In this article, we’ll answer that question.

Distracted Driving Studies

According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), distracted driving is the number one cause of motor vehicle crashes. The two leading forms of distraction are texting and inattention due to fatigue. The Institute also noted that distractions can be caused by many other activities, such as the following:

  • Grooming
  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Reading
  • Talking on a phone without a hands-free device

VTTI performed an influential study, commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), to determine the level of increased risk when truck drivers use hand-held mobile devices. The results showed that a driver who is texting while driving is a whopping 23 times more likely to have a crash. Texting caused drivers to take their eyes off the road an average of 4.6 seconds, which is enough time to cover more than 300 feet when traveling at the rate of 55 miles per hour. Writing made drivers 9 times as likely to have a crash, and looking at a map made drivers 7 times as likely.

Unfortunately, it appears that distracted driving is an issue for semi-truck drivers, just like it is for drivers of automobiles. One might assume that the issues of fatigue and texting, discussed above, affect commercial drivers similarly to how they affect automobile drivers.

Actions Taken by the Government to Mitigate Dangers

The federal government recognizes how distracted truck drivers put themselves and others at risk, and thus has created regulations to reduce the chance of distraction. These regulations include the following prohibitions on texting and using hand-held mobile devices:

  • Holding the device
  • Dialing or texting
  • Reading the device
  • Reaching for the device

Drivers who violate the rules can be fined and removed from their positions entirely.

What Happens if a Semi-Truck Driver Causes an Accident While Distracted?

Semi-trucks are huge, heavy vehicles that can cause great damage in a crash. Truck drivers must exercise reasonable care at all times when driving. This includes staying alert and not being improperly distracted.

If the driver fails to exercise reasonable care, then the driver is negligent. If this negligence results in injuries to another, the truck driver (and usually the company that employs the driver) can be held liable for the damages and injuries caused by the negligence.

Keep in mind that some drivers will not admit that they were distracted at the time of the accident. Therefore, a careful investigation is often necessary. Sometimes, experts are utilized to help determine the exact events of the accident.

Call with Questions

At Nelson MacNeil Rayfield, our experienced trucking lawyers will be happy to take your call and answer any questions you might have about a semi-truck accident. We believe that those who do not meet the standards of society must be held accountable for their wrongful actions. We have investigated many tractor-trailer collisions and can help you understand the process.