Is distracted driving by big-rig drivers becoming a serious problem?

Drivers in San Francisco County are accustomed to seeing tractor-trailers on the roads around them. These large transports bring food, clothing and other life-sustaining products to local stores and play an important role in the economy. Handling one of these big rigs requires great skill and drivers go through special training to learn how to maneuver them. Many drivers take their responsibility seriously but lately truck accidents have raised a question over some truckers’ driving behavior.

Distraction and truckers

Last March, two people were killed and three were injured when a semi veered across lanes of Interstate 80, near Davis, and into the opposing lane, according to KCRA. The semi then hit a car head-on. The driver, who suffered injuries in the crash, told law enforcement that he was eating and choked. The driver then lost consciousness, allowing the truck to make its own path through the interstate. The truck hit two other vehicles before the final collision, causing minor injuries to the drivers of those autos.

More recently, a tractor-trailer in Arizona was traveling at 65 miles per hour when it hit a group of first-response vehicles. The Huffington Post reported that a police officer was killed and five vehicles damaged. Video obtained from the semi’s dash camera showed that the driver was looking at his phone before the crash occurred and seemed oblivious to the vehicles in front of him. An investigation revealed that the driver was distracted by social media and pictures of women on escort and pornography sites.

Studying commercial distraction

In 2009 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration compiled a report based on previous studies that looked at commercial drivers and distracted driving. Using the data from those studies, the FMCSA came to the following conclusions:

  • Texting should be banned.
  • Fleet safety managers need to establish more policies relating to distracted driving.
  • Drivers shouldn’t use maps while they are driving.
  • Dispatching devices need to be redesigned to reduce the risk of distracting drivers.
  • More emphasis is needed on educating drivers as to the risks associated with distracting behaviors.
  • The manual dialing on cell phones should be prohibited.

In the following year, the FMCSA issued a ban on texting to commercial drivers. Using hand-held cell phones was added to the ban in 2011.

Protection against distracted truckers

It is important for commercial drivers, as well as all other drivers, to avoid behaviors that can distract them from their task of driving. These behaviors include smoking, drinking, eating, reading, using a cell phone and even fixating on objects outside like signs, other vehicles and buildings. When drivers engage in distractive behaviors, they put the lives of others around them as well as their own lives at risk. People injured in crashes caused by distracted truckers should discuss their situation with an experienced attorney.