The attorneys of Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, P.A., have more than 100 years of combined legal experience, including an extensive background in truck accident litigation. Our legal team knows how to investigate these unique types of crashes and tackle the challenging issues which they often present.
In recent years, we have seen distracted driving become a recurring issue in the truck accident cases that we handle for clients in Gainesville and throughout Florida. Truck drivers – like other vehicle drivers – too often try to “multi-task” behind the wheel. When they do, they put themselves and others on or near the road in jeopardy.
Here, we discuss why distracted driving is so dangerous when it involves tractor-trailer drivers. We also examine several common types of distractions that cause crashes on the roads in Florida and throughout the country. To discuss the specific facts of your case and learn more about how we can help you to pursue maximum compensation for the injuries and losses caused by a distracted or otherwise negligent truck driver, contact us today.
What Is Distracted Truck Driving (and Why Is It Dangerous)?
A tractor-trailer is a highly complex vehicle to operate. A driver must put all of his or her focus on steering, shifting gears and applying brakes while, at the same time, paying close attention to surrounding road, traffic and weather conditions. Drivers must keep a close watch on the control panel, regularly check mirrors and make sure they are taking the correct route to their destination. This is especially challenging when you consider that a typical 18-wheeler weighs around 80,000 pounds and can run 74 feet long (and combinations can be much longer).
Truck crashes frequently occur in Florida and elsewhere because drivers allow unnecessary secondary tasks or other distractions to take them away from the above primary tasks. Distracted truck driving occurs – and danger arises – when a driver allows his or her attention to stray from driving due to:
- Visual distractions – The driver looks at something besides the road ahead such as glancing down at a cell phone or watching a video.
- Manual distractions – The driver takes his or her hands off the wheel. For instance, a truck driver may reach for an object inside the cab or play with the radio.
- Cognitive distractions – The driver fails to focus his or her mind on driving. Many truck drivers cause crashes due to “inattentional blindness.” In other words, they fail to see a car or other object which is directly in front of them and fully visible because their minds are on something else.
Statistics show just how dangerous distracted truck driving can be. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) reports that distracted driving contributed to 255 fatal truck crashes in the U.S. in 2016, or 6.1 percent of all fatal truck accidents. The only driver-related factor that contributed to more fatal truck accidents was speeding.
Types of Dangerous Truck Driver Distractions
Truck drivers can allow many different types of distractions to keep them from driving safely and cause collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians or objects. However, as we have seen over many years of handling truck accident claims in Florida, the following are some of the most common types of distractions:
- Texting and Talking While Driving Texting is, by far, the most dangerous type of distraction – no matter what type of vehicle a person is driving. It involves all three types of distraction – visual (looking at the phone to read), manual (scrolling or typing) and cognitive (thinking about the message instead of driving). Talking on a cell phone while driving can also be dangerous, especially when a driver has to punch in a phone number and hold the device while talking.Several years ago, a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study found that truck drivers who dialed a cell phone while driving made themselves 5.9 times more likely to get into a crash or near-crash than if they were not distracted. Texting while driving made the risk 23.2 times higher.To prevent distracted driving accidents, FMCSA rules prohibit commercial drivers from texting while driving and from talking on phones with hand-held devices. A truck driver can use a phone while driving only if it involves grabbing a phone within reach, punching a single button to make a call and talking with a headset or speaker. Still, many drivers violate these rules.
- Use of Other Electronic Devices Sadly, truck drivers – like many other drivers – use more than just their phones when they drive. Many accidents occur because drivers pass the time behind the wheel during their long trips by using tablets, laptops, GPS devices, DVD players and other electronic devices. Often, truck drivers are glancing at a map on a device to get directions to the store or warehouse where they need to make a delivery. The use of these devices involves the same types of visual, manual and cognitive distractions as texting or talking on a phone, and it carries a similar amount of risk.
- Reaching for Objects or Controls A crash may occur if a truck driver takes his or her hands off the wheel or bends down in order to fish around the cab for an object such as a phone, map or drink, or when the driver reaches to change the radio or play with other controls. Of course, in doing so, the driver typically will take his or her eyes off the road as well. The driver may also accidently hit the steering wheel or press on the gas pedal, causing a sudden lane departure or acceleration. Many crashes happen when a truck driver overcorrects in these situations, including rollovers and jackknife accidents.
- Eating, Drinking and Smoking When truckers need to make long trips and meet tight delivery deadlines, they frequently will eat, drink and smoke while driving instead of stopping and taking a break. The situation can become dangerous if a driver drops an item like a lit cigarette or hot cup of coffee.
- Interaction with Pets or Passengers Some truck drivers work in teams or carry other passengers. Talking or otherwise interacting with someone else in the cab of an 18-wheeler can be highly distracting. Some drivers even take dogs or other pets with them. In addition to taking a driver’s mind off the road, the driver may become manually distracted when petting the animal, holding the pet in place when applying the brakes or otherwise keeping the animal restrained.
- Outside Person, Object or Event Truck drivers can get distracted by looking to the sides and staring at the passing landscape, reading road signs or gawking at accidents, or “rubbernecking.” Even a brief glance at something other than the road can cause a truck driver to miss a sudden stop or slowdown in traffic, or it can lead to the driver drifting out of the lane.
- Impairment (Fatigue, Alcohol, Drugs) Drivers who use alcohol, illegal drugs and certain types of prescription medications can suffer from impairment of their physical and mental faculties. As a result, they can become easily distracted while driving. A lack of sleep and rest – perhaps in violation of the FMCSA’s hours-of-service regulations – can also impair drivers and lead to distracted driving. In fact, fatigued driving can be just as dangerous as drunk or drugged driving.
How Can You Determine If Distracted Driving Caused a Truck Accident?
If a truck driver’s negligence caused a crash that injured you or caused the loss of your loved one, you may be eligible to collect compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering and more. For this reason, determining whether a truck driver was engaged in distracted driving may play a crucial role in your case.
At Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, P.A., we have extensive experience with handling truck accident investigations. We know that it is important to begin these investigations right away before critical evidence becomes lost, altered or destroyed, or before memories fade. This evidence may include:
- Photos of the vehicles and surrounding scene (showing the vehicle position, point of impact and tire marks – or a lack of such marks)
- Photos of objects in the cab (such as a phone, tablet, laptop, food, drinks or even a pet bed)
- Dashboard video (some trucking companies use dashboard-mounted surveillance cameras)
- Driver cell phone records (showing when calls or texts were made)
- Event data recorder information (data from the EDR, or “black box,” can provide information such as the vehicle’s speed, changes in acceleration, braking and even its steering wheel angle at the time of the crash)
- Witness observations (such as whether a person saw a driver talking on a phone or moving around in the cab before a crash)
- Breath, blood or urine test results (indicating whether the driver was intoxicated)
- Driver logbooks or bills of lading (showing how long the driver had been on the road).
We often work with highly knowledgeable professionals in areas such as accident reconstruction, engineering, trucking industry safety and other fields who can help us to analyze this evidence and figure out what happened. If a distracted driver caused your crash, you can be assured that we will aggressively pursue maximum compensation for you and your family.
Our Florida Truck Accident Attorneys Can Help You Today
The attorneys of Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, P.A., are focused on helping those injured in truck accidents in Gainesville and surrounding areas of Florida. It is crucial to launch immediate investigations of truck accidents in order to preserve, gather and analyze evidence that can indicate whether distracted driving or other negligence caused a crash. So, if you or a loved one has been involved in a collision with a truck, contact us immediately for a free consultation.