Truck drivers hold an essential job that is critical to the U.S. economy. The transportation of goods is vital for small businesses and corporations, and without truck drivers, many people would not have access to necessary products and food. Although most truck drivers are hardworking and law-abiding citizens, some companies and/or drivers break the law when it comes to driving while distracted.
A fully loaded 18-wheeler weighs around 80,000 pounds, and that amount of weight combined with their size makes them potentially deadly for others on the road. When a truck driver becomes distracted while at the wheel, they risk severely injuring or even killing drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. Fortunately, there are laws in place protecting people from distracted truck drivers. You need to be aware of regulations against distracted driving and utilizing a handheld device while at the wheel.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines distracted driving as, “the diversion of attention from activities critical for safe driving to a competing activity.” The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lists three categories for distracted driving:
- Visual Distractions: Visual distractions involve taking your eyes away from the road.
- Manual Distractions: You become manually distracted when you remove your hands from the wheel.
- Cognitive Distractions: A cognitive distraction is when you take your mind away from driving.
There are many potential sources of distractions while on the road. Some include eating, handling the radio, reading a map, talking to passengers, reaching for something in the vehicle, and personal grooming. One of the most common distractions at the wheel and also one of the most dangerous is using a handheld device, such as a cellphone. Texting while at the wheel incorporates all three of the CDC distraction categories.
When you text, you become visually distracted, you take at least a hand off the wheel to send a message, and your mind drifts to texting rather than focusing on what’s on the road. Texting or doing another activity on a handheld device is highly dangerous to both the driver operating the vehicle and others on the road.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has banned drivers from texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). CMVs are classified as vehicles weighing 10,000 or more pounds, designed for transporting over eight people who are paying for transit, designed for transporting over fifteen people who are not paying for transit, and any vehicle that transports hazardous materials.
In addition to the FMCSA’s regulations, federal law banned truck drivers from using a handheld device, such as a cell phone, while operating a CMV. If a truck driver is caught using a handheld device, they can face serious penalties, including a fine of up to $2,750 for a single offense and suspension of their commercial driver’s license. Additionally, any trucking company that doesn’t properly regulate its drivers’ use of handheld devices can face a fine of up to $11,000.
Driving while using a handheld device can lead to serious injuries or even deaths. The statistics revolving around vehicular accidents and cellphone use are staggering. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration listed a series of statistics that illustrate the dangers of operating a commercial motorized vehicle while using a handheld device:
- When a truck driver texts, they become distracted from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. If they’re traveling at 55 miles per hour, they travel 100 yards while being distracted while at wheel.
- Someone who texts while at the wheel is 23 times more likely to experience an accident than a driver who doesn’t.
- A driver talking on a handheld device is six times more likely to be involved in a serious accident than a driver who doesn’t use a handheld device while at the wheel.
In addition to the statistics provided by the FMCSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that 3,142 people were killed because of distracted driving in 2019 alone. Using a handheld device while operating a vehicle is highly dangerous, and even a second of distracted driving can kill someone.
Although there are legal alternatives to using a handheld device, such as using Bluetooth, talking on a cellphone while driving is still dangerous. The National Safety Council noted that drivers talking on cell phones made up 21% of domestic car accidents, and hands-free devices can still cause cognitive distractions that can result in fatal accidents.
Although federal laws already carry penalties for using handheld devices, truck drivers who text or talk on the phone are also liable for lawsuits. Any accident, injury, or death caused by a distracted truck driver can result in litigations. If you’re a victim of a distracted truck driver, you should receive compensation for damages, medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You need an expert team on your side to get you the money you deserve after falling victim to a distracted truck driver.
Recognized as one of Central Kentucky’s best law firms for over a decade and counting, McCoy & Sparks works to help people in trouble, representing thousands of clients in Central Kentucky with a focus on providing premium service and delivering superior results. We have extensive experience in dealing with trucking cases and distracted truck drivers.
Regardless of the type of case, our goal is to develop a strategy that best serves your personal needs, then draws upon our courtroom skills to help you reach the best possible result. We start by getting to know you. Next, we will explain all your options, giving you the pros and cons of each choice so that you will be empowered to make informed decisions.