Distracted Driving: A Leading Cause of Truck Accidents in The United States

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has become an epidemic on U.S. roadways, contributing to thousands of preventable crashes, injuries, and deaths each year. For drivers of large trucks, distraction poses an especially serious risk.

When an 80,000-pound big rig travels at high speeds while the driver’s attention wanders, devastating consequences often follow.

Understanding the dangers of distracted truck driving, and the laws designed to curb it, can help make our roads safer for everyone.

This article provides an overview of distracted driving risks, with a focus on large truck accidents. It also reviews relevant laws and regulations, and the role of personal injury lawyers in helping victims seek justice after a crash.

The Main Causes of Distracted Driving

Any activity that diverts a driver’s attention from the road is considered distracted driving. There are three main types of distraction:

  1. Visual – Taking eyes off the road, such as looking at a phone.
  2. Manual – Taking hands off the wheel, like texting or eating.
  3. Cognitive – Mental distraction that shifts focus from driving. Daydreaming is an example.

For commercial truck drivers, some common distracted driving behaviors include:

  • Talking or texting on a cell phone
  • Adjusting the radio or other controls
  • Reading, writing or mapping
  • Eating, drinking or smoking
  • Daydreaming or being lost in thought
  • Arguing with a passenger or other motorist

Additionally, truckers face distractions from in-cab technology like fleet management systems, navigation devices, and onboard internet and entertainment. Fatigue and lack of focus due to long hours on the road also contribute.

Research shows that distracted driving contributes to a substantial portion of truck crashes.

A 2019 study found distraction was a likely factor in 16% of commercial truck crashes resulting in death or injury. Cell phone use accounted for 14% of these distracted driving crashes.

The Risks of Large Trucks on The Road

Large trucks pose significant risks even when drivers are focused on the road. These vehicles have major blind spots, take longer distances to stop, and are prone to rollovers. Distracted driving compounds existing hazards.

Some key statistics on large truck dangers:

  • In 2019, 5,005 people died in crashes involving large trucks.
  • 96% of deaths in two-vehicle crashes between a passenger vehicle and a large truck are occupants of the passenger vehicle.
  • Truck braking distance is 40% longer than that of passenger cars.
  • Large trucks have added risks in bad weather, with hydroplaning and jackknife crashes.

When a distracted truck driver takes their eyes off the road, even briefly, the outcome can be catastrophic.

Trucks cannot maneuver or stop quickly when a dangerous situation arises. By the time a distracted trucker detects a hazard, it may be too late to prevent a collision.

Laws and Regulations Surrounding Truck Driver Distraction

Recognizing the heightened risks from distracted truckers, laws, and trucking regulations address this dangerous behavior:

  • Federal rules prohibit commercial drivers from texting or using handheld phones while operating a CMV (commercial motor vehicle). Violations can result in driver disqualification.
  • Many states also ban cell phone use for all drivers, including truckers. Fines and license points may apply.
  • Trucking companies enforce zero-tolerance policies on distracted driving, monitoring drivers with cameras and tracking collision reports.
  • The FMCSA requires truckers to log their hours driving and on duty. This guards against fatigued driving.
  • Plaintiffs may cite distracted driving in truck accident lawsuits to help prove negligence.

Despite these deterrents, many truck drivers still engage in distracting behaviors behind the wheel. Stronger measures, including wider adoption of camera monitoring and collision avoidance technologies, are needed to compel focus.

Statistics on Distracted Driving Deaths and Crashes

Each year, distractions like cell phones claim thousands of lives on U.S. roads. Fatalities directly attributed to distracted driving include:

  • Approximately 3,000 people lose their lives each year in car accidents caused by distracted drivers. This accounts for 8% to 9% of all fatal motor vehicle collisions in the United States.
  • In 2020 alone, 3,142 people died in collisions involving distracted driving, with 396 fatalities specifically linked to cell phone use during the crash.
  • While 3,142 people died due to distracted driving-related crashes in 2020, there were a total of 2,880 crashes resulting from driver distraction.

For truck drivers, distraction or inattention contributes to a considerable portion of fatal accidents:

  • In 2021, distraction or inattention was the second most common factor in large truck driver-related crashes, accounting for 278 fatal crashes.
  • Drug or alcohol impairment was the most frequent factor, involved in 299 fatal truck crashes. Speeding ranked third, linked to 237 deadly collisions.
  • Since 2017, distraction has been associated with over 1,000 deaths in crashes involving large trucks.

These bleak statistics indicate that distracted driving is a severe, ongoing threat to public safety. For commercial truckers operating heavy rigs, we cannot afford to let attention stray.

Seeking Justice After a Truck Accident

When a distracted trucker causes devastating crash injuries or fatalities, the trucking company and driver must be held accountable.

By hiring experienced truck accident lawyers, victims and families can pursue maximum compensation for:

  • Medical bills from initial treatment, hospitalization, surgery, and ongoing care
  • Rehabilitation and physical therapy
  • Lost income and reduced earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Wrongful death damages for surviving family members

An attorney will investigate the crash, pinpoint negligence like distracted driving, calculate damages, and fight to obtain a fair settlement or court award.

They know federal regulations and state laws governing commercial carriers and drivers.

With their insight, trucking companies cannot evade responsibility when their drivers cause harm through negligent behaviors like distracted driving.

Partnering with a lawyer levels the playing field against trucking insurance powerhouses looking to minimize payouts. Victims recover significantly more with representation. On average, accident survivors receive 3.5x larger settlements with an attorney.

Do not leave lost wages, trauma, and grief uncompensated. The devastating effects of a truck crash require extensive care and support.

Pursue the maximum available damages through a truck accident lawsuit. With an unyielding lawyer as an advocate, families can focus on healing while holding the truck driver and carrier fully accountable.

May You Like Also: Virginia Reckless Driving Law: Penalties & Defenses

Distracted Driving – An Ongoing Crisis

Distracted driving will continue to claim lives until driver habits fundamentally change. For commercial truckers, we need enhanced training, monitoring, and accountability measures to keep focus locked on the road.

Preventing distraction behind the wheel is literally a life-or-death matter. We all must commit to removing distractions, keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

Through heightened diligence and safety-first priorities, we can reduce the dangers of distracted driving.

Author Bio

Laura Ginn writes for We Write Law Blogs – a white label agency helping law firms to establish an online presence through blogging. When she’s not researching the latest stats on motor vehicle accidents, she’s a busy parent to two young girls.

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