While distracted driving is extremely dangerous for any driver, it is arguably even more so for truckers who operate vehicles in excess of 80,000 pounds. Truckers face innumerable distractions on the road. However, it is their job and their responsibility to identify and mitigate these distractions. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.
Get the facts on three major distractions that truckers face, and the potentially devastating consequences when truckers drive distracted.
What Are the Statistics?
According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), distracted driving plays a significant role in truck crashes. From the 120,000 large truck crashes that occurred over a two-year period, a nationally representative sample was collected and analyzed. The “critical reasons,” or the immediate reason for the event that made a crash unavoidable, include the following:
Driver non-performance (the driver fell asleep or was physically impaired): 12%
Driver recognition (the driver was inattentive or distracted): 28%
Driver decision (the driver was driving too fast): 38%
Driver performance (the driver panicked or overcompensated): 9%
Vehicle malfunction: 10%
Environmental factors: 3%
According to this data, driver distraction was the second-highest cause of truck crashes in this study. This has serious implications for the trucking industry and for every driver on the road. But what, specifically, are these distractions that drivers face?
#1. Objects in the Environment
Highways are distracting environments. Trucks are surrounded by other vehicles and come across bright billboards flying by and small animals sprinting across the road. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), even taking one’s eyes off the road for five seconds while traveling at an average highway speed of 55 miles per hour is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded!
The reason that distractions are so dangerous is because many of them divert truckers’ eyes from the road for this exact amount of time.
In a three-year data collection effort by the FMCSA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), it was found that approximately 11,000 truck crashes nationwide involved distractions external to the truck cab. So, contrary to popular belief, not all truck crashes are caused by texting and driving -- although that remains a major threat to safety.
#2. Smartphones and Other Communication Devices
Using a smartphone, whether that be talking on the phone or texting, is extremely dangerous for every driver because it can divert all three forms of attention at the same time:
Visual: Taking eyes off the road
Manual: Taking hands off the wheel
Cognitive: Taking mind off the task of driving
A 2009 study of real-world driving demonstrated that texting while driving increases a driver’s chances of being involved in a safety critical event by 23 times. Most of the crashes that occurred due to texting and driving involved the driver looking at their phone instead of the road for a full five seconds before impact. The results of the study were so alarming that President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13513 in response, which banned all federal employees from texting while driving on government business.
#3. Dispatching Devices
Dispatching devices are a vital part of a trucker’s job as they enable them to stay in touch with dispatchers who can help them navigate and keep logs. However, using a dispatching device while driving can be dangerous, and many truckers feel like they have to respond to a message from dispatch as quickly as possible.
Like a smartphone, a dispatching device can distract all three forms of attention at the same time. In the same study as above, researchers discovered that using a dispatching device while driving increased a driver’s chances of being involved in a safety critical event by 9 times.
Although truckers face many distractions on the job, it is their responsibility to make driving safely their priority. Additionally, it is vital for trucking companies to implement a culture that values safety above all else, and to discourage their truckers from engaging in distracting activities while driving. Sadly, this doesn’t always happen.
Injured in a Truck Crash? Contact Us Today
If you or someone you love has been injured in a crash caused by a distracted trucker, our New Mexico personal injury attorneys are here to help. We have the experience and resources needed to take on large trucking companies and their insurers, and we have helped many clients recover the compensation they need to recover after a devastating accident. Learn how we may help you, too.
Call McGinn, Montoya, Love & Curry, P.A. at (505) 405-4441 to schedule a free consultation.