Driver distraction is currently one of the greatest threats to motorist safety in Illinois. This has never been more apparent that when the drivers of large commercial trucks cause accidents because they were distracted. While hand held devices like cell phones, GPS systems and music players are some of the most distracting devices today, anything that draws truckers’ attention away from the road can lead to deadly accidents. An accident attorney in Chicago often sees the effects of these types of accidents and understands just how devastating they can be for all involved.
Types of distraction
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, driver distraction is often grouped into three types: manual, visual and cognitive. Manual distraction occurs whenever something causes motorists to take one or both of their hands off of the wheel. The most common forms of manual distraction include eating, drinking and reaching for objects within a vehicle while driving. Visual distractions include anything inside or outside of the car that take truckers’ eyes off of the road. Examples include roadway accidents, police activity and animals in the road.
Cognitive distraction occurs when anything takes drivers’ minds off the task of driving. Talking on a cell phone, adjusting the radio, and listening to music can all be cognitively distracting. An accident attorney in Chicago knows that the most dangerous conditions often involve all three forms of distraction. Hand-held devices like cell phones are usually cited as some of the most dangerous systems to use while on the road because they cause all three main types of distraction.
Why trucker distraction can be so deadly
The insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that truck braking capability is often a major factor in crashes. Due to their large size and weight, commercial trucks require a much greater distance to stop than regular passenger motor vehicles. According to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, an 80,000 pound tractor trailer traveling at 55 mph under ideal weather conditions will take the length of one and a half football fields to come to a complete stop. This is 91 percent greater than that required of a regular vehicle.
Distracted truck drivers may not become aware of hazards on the roadways until their required stopping distance is significantly reduced or completely gone. This would reduce or eliminate truckers’ ability to prevent accidents and minimize damages.
Federal attempts to lessen distraction among truckers
The dangers of distraction are so severe when truck drivers are the offending parties that the federal government has put safety regulations in place to prevent their occurrence. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration recently issued a final rule regarding commercial truck drivers and their use of attention-grabbing wireless communication devices. The rule prohibits all commercial motor vehicle drivers who are operating in interstate commerce or hauling hazardous material from texting or using any hand-held mobile phone while on the road. However, regular cell phone use for all other truckers is still allowed, as is use of hands-free devices.
A deadly problem
Trucking Info reports that the National Transportation Safety Board found that distraction from portable devices has caused or contributed to 11 truck accidents since 2003. Nearly 260 people were injured and another 50 people were killed in connection with these crashes. However, industry experts believe that distraction likely plays a much greater role in accidents across the nation than the research currently indicates.
Further information from a study performed by the FMCSA shows that a majority of truck crashes involve distraction of one form or another. After analyzing nearly 4,500 safety-critical events, which include crashes, crash-relevant conflicts, near-crashes and unintentional lane deviation, researchers found that 71 percent of accidents, 46 percent of near-crashes and 60 percent of all safety critical events occurred when truckers were being occupied by non-driving related tasks.
Trucking safety was recently highlighted following an accident involving an 18-wheel tractor trailer and the bus carrying a Texas community college softball team. Fox News reports that the truck was headed north on I-35 near Davis, Oklahoma when it failed to follow a curve in the road and instead continued traveling straight through the median that divided the highway. The truck traveled 820 feet through the median, collided with a southbound bus carrying the softball team and continued for almost 300 feet. Four team members, all under the age of 20, were killed in the accident. Law enforcement officers state that the truck driver admitted to being distracted by something inside his cabin just prior to crashing through the median.
A similarly dangerous truck accident recently took place in Maryland. Reuters reports that a trash truck driver was talking on a hands-free cell phone when he caused a train collision in Rosedale. Officials state that the man failed to move out of an ungated railway crossing even after the train sounded its horn three times in warning. The train struck the fully loaded garbage truck and 15 of its cars derailed, including three that were filled with hazardous materials. The crash also resulted in a fire and explosion that shattered windows for a half mile. In addition to the truck driver who was seriously injured, four other people suffered minor injuries in the accident.
Distraction-induced large truck accidents are completely preventable. Those who have been injured due to the negligent behavior of a truck driver should seek the assistance of an accident attorney in Chicago. With their help, injured motorists and pedestrians may be able to successfully navigate the legal justice system to recover their lost damages.