Truck driving is a difficult job. The hours are long. During the time a driver is behind the wheel, the driver has little contact with other people. When drivers are off-duty, there’s no family around to keep a driver happy or occupied. Driving a truck is a physically demanding job. Drivers can be on the road for long stretches of time. Many truck drivers engage in different activities to keep from boredom. Many of these activities aren’t helping the trucker at all. Instead, they’re increasing the risk of a serious or deadly accident.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, distracted driving involves any activity that takes a driver’s hands off the wheel, eyes of the road, and mind off anticipating and responding to traffic dangers. A 2021 report states that distracted driving is a major cause of vehicle collisions. The leading causes of distracted driving truck accidents, according to Omnitracs, are as follows: (from most likely to cause an accident to least likely; but still a strong factor):
- Talking on a handheld mobile phone
- Texting/dialing on a mobile phone
- Grooming and other types of personal hygiene
- Using other mobile devices
- Using wired/unwired earphones and headphones
- Doing paperwork
- Talking on a hands-free mobile phone
A truck driver who uses a handheld mobile phone is 90.3% more likely to have a collision than a driver who isn’t talking on their phone. The comparison rate is 60.7% for drivers who text or dial while driving. Drivers who smoke are still nearly 15% more likely to have an accident than non-smokers. The report does not state why texting while driving isn’t at the top of the list. Perhaps that is because most states including Virginia have laws against texting while driving.
Distracted driving laws for truck drivers
Virginia law specifically provides as follows: “No person driving a commercial motor vehicle shall text or use a handheld mobile telephone while driving such vehicle. A driver who violates this section is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $2,750. [Some exceptions and conditions apply].”
Another Virginia law also states that “It is unlawful for any person, while driving a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth, to hold a handheld personal communications device. [Some exceptions and conditions apply].”
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has its own rules that restrict a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) driver from “holding a mobile device to make a call, or dialing by pressing more than a single button. CMV drivers who use a mobile phone while driving can only use a hands-free phone located in close proximity.”
The data on the dangers of distracted driving by truck drivers
Omnitracs also found that truck drivers who are the most distracted are “nearly 72% more likely to be involved in a ‘near collision’ than other drivers.”
Omnitracs bases its data on “aggregated and anonymized data from its SmartDrive video‐based analytics platform among trucking fleets.” Generally, distracted drivers drive faster and engage in more fundamental driving mistakes such as failing to stop at an intersection than non-distracted drivers. Omnitracs states that drivers who use mobile phones are three times more likely to drive more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. Distracted drivers are three times less likely to wear a seatbelt.
Other significant findings of the study include:
- Drivers who were categorized as the “’most distracted’” rolled through stop signs and traffic lights at a rate 2.7 times higher than the least distracted drivers.
- Distracted drivers drifted out of their lane 2.3 times more than “least-distracted” drivers.
The study has specific definitions for “most distracted” and “least distracted” based on the number of distractions observed per 1,000 hours and other factors.
The report also found that more than 42,000 people according to data from the National Safety Council died in vehicle crashes in 2020 – a relatively light year due to the pandemic. Many of those deaths were due to distracted driving.
Other interesting data, based on a presentation from Susan Soccolich, a research associate with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) found that other types of driver distraction often not discussed include:
- External (outside the vehicle) distractions
- Adjusting/using an electronic dispatching device
- Reaching for an object
- Removing/adjusting clothing such as taking off a jacket
Curiously (and likely to be taken with some skepticism); talking, singing, and dancing (presumably to the music on the radio/CD) decreased the risk of an accident.
The VTTI study analyzed drivers in seven truck fleets over a two-year period with “Five video cameras: forward, face, over-the-shoulder, left mirror, and right mirror. Sensors were triggered when the following safety-critical events occurred: a crash, near-crash, crash-relevant conflict, and unintentional lane deviation.”
Who is responsible for a distracted driving truck accident?
Our Richmond-based truck accident lawyers conduct extensive discovery to examine and show what a truck driver was doing just before and during the accident, including seeking discovery of any smartphones used by the driver. The path of the truck and the damage to any vehicles are strong indicators of how a truck accident happened.
The responsible defendants may include the truck driver, the employer of the truck driver, the owner of the truck, and others. Employers are generally liable for the negligence of their employees. Truck owners may be liable if they failed to educate and warn the driver about the dangers of distracted driving.
Distracted driving accidents often cause serious injuries or deaths. This is because truck drivers often drive through intersections, speed, and swerve into oncoming traffic. Phelan Petty is skilled at holding irresponsible drivers and others accountable. Accountability means demanding that the defendants pr for all your economic and personal damages. To discuss your claim with an experienced truck accident lawyer in the Richmond area, call us or use our contact form to make an appointment. We represent personal injury victims across Virginia.
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Michael Phelan is a Virginia trial attorney who practices with a special focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI) cases, pharmaceutical and medical device claims, product liability cases, and truck accidents. Michael’s peers have consistently recognized him for his excellence as a trial lawyer, and his clients have praised him for his commitment to deep research, his outstanding communication skills, and his sincerity and dedication.