“Stay Alive: Don’t Text & Drive.”
“Think Safe, Ride Safe, Be Safe.”
“Hands-Free Isn’t Risk-Free.”
These are just a few of a countless number of slogans from safe driving campaigns across the country—all aimed at getting drivers to avoid distraction behind the wheel. Unfortunately, not everyone hears these slogans or uses them to make real changes in his or her driving habits. Distracted driving is still a significant problem for everyone on the road, causing thousands of injuries and deaths each year—and it’s an even bigger danger when that distracted driver is operating a massive 18-wheeler or commercial truck.
Truckers and other commercial drivers are susceptible to the same bad habits behind the wheel as everyone else, but the risks of engaging in these behaviors while operating a large tractor-trailer or heavy commercial truck can be much higher. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that distracted truck drivers killed 188 motorists in fatal truck accidents in 2010 alone. Sadly, these deaths could have been prevented if the drivers had avoided the temptation to take their hands off the wheel, eyes off the road, and minds off the task of driving.
Texting While Driving a Truck: One of the Top Causes of Dangerous Distraction
Texting is one of the biggest distractions behind the wheel for any driver, and that includes truckers. A study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) attempted to measure the risks, and its statistics showed that commercial drivers who text behind the wheel are 23.2 times more likely to be involved in “safety-critical events”—defined as crashes, near-crashes, and drifting into another lane.
Because of the nature of their jobs, truckers may have a lot of temptation to text while they drive, including the fact that so many truckers:
- Work long, boring hours on the road
- Must spend a lot of time away from family and friends
- Are often under rushed deadlines
The driver may only look away for a few seconds to read or respond to a text, but a commercial truck at highway speeds can travel the length of a football field while the driver’s eyes are momentarily away from the road.
What Else Is Distracting Truck Drivers on Illinois Roadways?
However, texting isn’t the only dangerous distraction behind the wheel. The same study from the FMCSA also found significant increases in risk when truck drivers were:
- Dialing a phone
- Engaging in personal grooming
- Eating behind the wheel
- Looking outside the vehicle or back into the sleeper area
- Opening a pill bottle
- Talking with a passenger
- Reaching for an object in the cab
- Talking on a hands-free device
On top of the kinds of distractions that result from poor choices or reckless behavior, even just the act of doing their job can be distracting for truckers, including duties like:
- Staying in radio communications with trucking companies
- Using maps or GPS to navigate through unfamiliar territory
- Reading confusing instrument panels
- Reacting to changes in surrounding traffic patterns
- Looking at paperwork
Overall, the problem of distracted truck driving is such an important issue that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration designed a set of recommendations for all commercial truck drivers and trucking companies to help curb the practice. Unfortunately, some truck drivers and trucking companies still break or “bend” the rules.
How to Report a Distracted Commercial Truck Driver
Wondering what you can do if you see a truck driver texting, talking, or swerving all over the road? On the back of many semi-truck trailers, there is a sticker that features a toll-free number and says, “How’s My Driving?” Be sure to call that number and let the trucking company know. Most trucking companies truly do care about driving safety, both for their employees and other motorists on the road, and they also know that they can be held liable for any accidents their employees may cause. One simple phone call to report unsafe behaviors could prevent a potentially catastrophic truck accident.
What to Do If You’ve Already Been Hurt in an Accident With a Distracted Chicagoland Truck Driver
If you’ve already been in an accident, it can be a little more complicated to take action. It isn’t easy for victims to get hold of the evidence they need to prove that a driver was distracted and caused an accident or stand up for their rights against big trucking companies. If you believe the truck driver who hit you may have been distracted at the time, an attorney who has experience working with truck accident victims can help you investigate your case by looking at:
- Your own memory of the accident
- The police report
- Statements from witnesses
- Surveillance video
- Trucking logs
- Evidence from the scene
- Your medical treatment
- Other evidence
If you have been involved in a wreck with a commercial driver who was engaging in dangerous or reckless behavior, you can contact our law office at 312-332-1400 today to learn more about your legal rights and the next steps you should take. You may also find it helpful to read through a free copy of our book, The 8 Steps to Follow After Your Illinois Car Accident, which will explain more about what to expect and how to take action now to protect your rights.