Commercial Distracted Driving Accidents
Because commercial motor vehicles are so much larger than standard passenger cars, crashes involving commercial trucks can leave victims with catastrophic or even fatal injuries. Commercial truck drivers have a heightened duty of care when operating their vehicles. If a truck driver is distracted and breaches that duty of care, other drivers and passengers on the road around them may pay the price.
Distracted driving is absolutely unacceptable, especially for commercial truck drivers who can cause so much damage with their massive vehicles. At Ketterman Rowland & Westlund, our powerful team of truck accident lawyers knows how to investigate these complicated crashes, prove who was liable, and demand justice for victims.
For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer, please contact our law office today.
What Is Commercial Distracted Driving?
Commercial distracted driving refers to any instance of a commercial driver, such as a large truck or bus driver, operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) while distracted. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration prohibits CMV drivers from using handheld devices to make a call or dial by pushing more than one button. However, talking and texting aren’t the only forms of distracted driving. Anytime that drivers take their attention away from the act of driving, they are considered distracted. Distracted driving is negligent driving.
Types of Distractions Among Commercial Drivers
Distracted driving can involve any activity that takes a person’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, or mind off the task of driving. Some common examples of driving while distracted include:
- Using handheld devices. Using handheld devices is one of the most dangerous behaviors that a driver ─ commercial or otherwise ─ can engage in when behind the wheel. Handheld devices refer to cellphones, tablets, and even GPS devices. These devices should not be used at all when behind the wheel. Common behaviors in which drivers may engage include talking on a handheld device, texting, checking email, using social media sites, taking pictures, and even playing games.
- Communicating with dispatch. Commercial drivers may be in communication with dispatch officials at headquarters or at a location to which they are traveling. While communicating with dispatch may be necessary, drivers should engage in communications with dispatch officials while the vehicle is stopped and pulled over at a safe location. Engaging in communication while the vehicle is in motion is unsafe and distracting, and it may contribute to the risk of a serious accident.
- Eating. Commercial drivers are often tasked with driving for long hours at a time, and they may be hungry while on the road. While eating and drinking is important for health, hydration, and maintaining safe energy levels in order to be able to operate a commercial vehicle, eating is something that should be done while the vehicle is not in motion. Eating or drinking can be very distracting, especially if a spill occurs, which can cause the driver to take their attention off of the road.
- Grooming. A commercial driver may be guilty of looking in the mirror while driving for self-grooming purposes. Again, any behaviors that take a driver’s attention off of the act of driving are dangerous and should not be engaged in. This includes self-grooming.
- Using a GPS. Using a GPS is sometimes necessary, especially if a driver is unfamiliar with the surroundings. However, if the use of a GPS is necessary, then the driver should use a hands-free GPS device that provides verbal instructions. Attempting to reconfigure a GPS while a vehicle is in motion, or constantly looking down at a map, is unsafe and constitutes distracted driving.
- Talking to others in the vehicle. Commercial drivers may be accompanied by others in the vehicle, whether passengers who are being transported (i.e. in the event of operation of a bus) or a co-driver who is there to assist professionally and trade off driving shifts. Drivers should not allow themselves to get distracted while the vehicle is in motion by engaging in conversations with others. Doing so is incredibly dangerous and can significantly increase the risk of a crash.
These examples of distracted driving do not touch on the full range of potentially dangerous behaviors that can lead to commercial crashes. For example, speeding, driving while impaired, driving aggressively, and performing illegal maneuvers are all equally dangerous.
Distracted Driving Statistics
Just how dangerous is the act of operating a motor vehicle while distracted by another activity? Distracted driving statistics clearly demonstrate the dangers:
- At the national level, distracted driving is a top cause of death. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that distracted driving claimed more than 3,166 lives in one recent year alone.
- The Texas Department of Transportation reports that in a recent year, about 18 percent of the 540,561 motor vehicle crashes reported on the state’s roadways were caused by distracted driving. The distracted driving crashes (totaling over 95,000 accidents) resulted in over 2,300 injuries and nearly 400 deaths.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that each day in the United States, approximately nine people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
- While all types of distracted driving are dangerous, the CDC explains that texting while driving is especially risky, as it combines all three forms of distraction: cognitive (taking your mind off the act of driving), visual (taking your eyes off the road), and manual (taking your hands off the wheel).
Some additional statistics put common distractions into context:
- Drivers who are manually using a phone to place a call take their eyes off of the road for an average of 3.8 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, taking your eyes off of the road for that amount of time is equivalent to traveling the length of a football field without looking at what’s in front of you.
- For drivers who text, the amount of time where eyes are taken off the road is increased from 3.8 seconds (for dialing) to 4.6 seconds.
- It is never safe to attempt to multitask while driving. In fact, research shows that only 2.5 percent of the population has the capacity to multitask while driving without measurable diminished operating performance.
- Driving while distracted may be equally as dangerous as driving while alcohol- or drug-impaired. Some studies show that driving while using a cellphone, even when the phone is being used hands-free, has the same increased likelihood of a crash as does driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent.
For commercial drivers, the Texas Commercial Driver’s License Manual puts distractions into context:
- Drivers should be looking at least 12 to 15 seconds ahead in order to stop safely. At highway speeds, that’s about a quarter of a mile. Any seconds spent distracted detract from the driver’s ability to safely stop.
- At 55 mph, commercial drivers need a minimum of 419 feet for total stopping time. This includes 1¾ seconds of perception time (traveling 142 feet), ¾ second to 1 second of reaction time (61 feet), and about 216 feet to physically bring the vehicle to a stop. Just a couple seconds looking down at a phone can mean the difference between stopping safely and slamming into another vehicle.
- The faster a person drives, the greater the striking power of the commercial vehicle. When drivers double their speed from 20 to 40 mph, the potential impact in a crash is 4 times greater. When the driver triples the speed from 20 to 60 mph, the impact is 9 times greater.
Compensation After a Collision with a Distracted Driver
If you were involved in a collision with a distracted commercial driver, you have a right to demand compensation for your losses. Texas is an at-fault state, which means that you have the right to pursue damages by filing a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance (or filing a lawsuit directly against the at-fault party).
Our lawyers can help you pursue the full amount of compensation you deserve, including payment for:
- Medical expenses
- Future treatment needs
- Property damage costs
- Lost wages
- Reduced earning capacity for the future
- Pain, suffering, and emotional distress
Do not hesitate to get the legal advice you need after a serious accident. Time is limited to file a personal injury claim, so it is important that you speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
Drivers of 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, buses, and other commercial vehicles have a duty to everyone on the road. No one’s health or life should be put at risk by a text message or other avoidable distraction.
If you were hurt in a collision caused by a distracted commercial driver in Texas, you need an experienced accident lawyer on your side. Call the respected legal team at Ketterman Rowland & Westlund today for your free consultation.