As a law practice operating in St. Petersburg, we have seen far too many cases that involve tractor trailers and other large trucks. While mechanical issues and improper loading practices have caused a number of those accidents, distracted driving is also playing a significant part in trucking accidents around the country.
With the invention of smartphones, came the opportunity for greater distraction on the road, which means that there was a new cause of accidents plaguing American highways. It wasn’t just the average driver of a passenger vehicle who picked up the cell phone in an attempt to shoot off a last minute email, or to check an incoming text message, while behind the wheel. Truckers have done the same, and several have paid the ultimate consequence for doing so.
Distracted driving does kill, but it doesn’t just kill. It can maim a person, leaving him or her disabled for life. It has caused people to live in a vegetative state and left them with grotesque and highly visible scarring. Yet, still, knowing that this can and does happen, a few drivers continue to make the wrong choices, which has led to new regulations for the operators of passenger vehicles, and for those responsible for shipping large loads across borders.
Stricter Regulations in Place for Truck Drivers
Truckers are responsible for some of the largest and most dangerous vehicles on the roads. A wrong maneuver can easily take out multiple passenger vehicles and cause serious injuries or death to all those traveling in those cars, vans, and pickup trucks. Therefore, stricter regulations are in place for those in the drivers’ seats of big rigs and tractor trailers.
Being caught texting or otherwise using a handheld mobile device while driving can lead to serious fines or even loss of the job. Why the severity of the punishment? In addition to the remarks above about the damaging power of such a large vehicle, research has revealed that a trucker who is texting while behind the wheel is 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident or similarly threatening event than those who are not distracted by a mobile device. Even the act of dialing the phone increases the likelihood of an accident by a large margin.
What about Hands-Free Devices?
Fortunately for drivers who want to stay in touch while on the road, often for days or weeks at a time, the use of hands-free devices is allowed. That means that there is no need to be texting. A phone call can be made via Bluetooth technology, and the conversation is both legal and far safer than what could be accomplished via a text message.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has put rigid regulations in place regarding the use of mobile devices for the protection of the public, as well as the safety of the truckers. While state law overrides the legislation of the FMCSA, in the vast majority of cases, the lack of or format of distracted driving laws within the state leads to judgement being passed based on the FMCSA regulation. In Saint Petersburg, for instance, the FMCSA rules would apply because the state of Florida does not have a ban on cell phone use or on handheld devices.
Regardless of state law, if you are injured or a loved one is harmed because of the distracted driving of a tractor trailer driver, you have the right to seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney, and to seek compensation for your losses.