Distracted driving is defined as any activity that takes the eyes off the road, the hands off the wheel, or the mind off of the task of driving. This includes eating, looking at maps, and talking or texting on a cell phone. The use of handheld devices causes the greatest hazard because it involves all three types of distraction at the same time. While federal laws limit truck drivers to 11 hours per day on the road, a work day of this length may create a situation where it is difficult to resist making calls or sending and receiving text messages.
The United States Department of Transportation passed a federal law banning truck drivers from using cell phones while driving because of the high number of crashes caused. According to Illinois Crash Data, truck accidents caused 93 fatalities and more than 2,500 injuries in Illinois during 2011.
Texting is more dangerous in a truck
The average text message takes the driver’s eyes from the road for an average of five seconds. During this amount of time, the vehicle traveling at highway speeds covers about the length of a football field, which does not give the driver enough time to react to traffic fluctuations. Stopping a vehicle at highway speeds involves the perception of the problem, the application of the brakes, and then the time needed for the vehicle to come to a complete stop. In a car, this takes an average of 100 yards.
A truck may take nearly twice as long to stop because of its size and weight. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study reported that texting in a tractor trailer is 23.2 times more likely to cause an accident than the same activity in a passenger vehicle. All distracted drivers raise the risk of accidents on the roadways, but a truck driver poses a greater hazard because the potential for serious injuries is much higher.
Steep fines do not eliminate distracted driving
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has increased its enforcement tactics, issuing nearly 600 tickets to truck drivers who texted while driving between September of 2010 and September of 2011. The $2,750 penalty for this activity has curtailed its occurrence some, but the risk of injury or fatality from a truck accident remains high.
It is common for a person involved in a motor vehicle crash with a distracted truck driver to have high medical costs and require extensive recovery time or even permanent disabilities. Victims can benefit from the legal advice of an Illinois truck accident lawyer who is able to ensure that adequate compensation is rewarded.