The life of a long-haul trucker is often a lonely one. They are separated from family and loved ones for extended periods of time and only able to communicate sporadically with them via electronic devices.
Those devices can be their lifelines, but can also prove deadly — and not just to the truck drivers themselves. Use of these devices behind the wheel exposes all motorists and passengers in close proximity to them to great risk of accidents.
Distracted driving in truckers: An ongoing problem
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has stringent regulations in place that prohibit professional truck drivers from using hand-held mobile devices while operating commercial motor vehicles that are being used in interstate commerce.
Despite the risk, commercial truck drivers still sometimes flout federal and state laws preventing their use of cellphones behind the while. Those who get caught using their hand-held cellphones risk being ordered out-of-service and disqualified to continue driving commercially, as well as facing hefty fines.
Studies indicated that commercial truckers who text have over 23 times the likelihood of having a safety-critical incident than drivers who refrain from texting while driving their big rigs.
It’s not just texting
Commercial truckers aren’t just texting behind the wheel. They’re dialing phones, holding and reaching for them and reading messages — all of which is prohibited by the FMCSA. In fact, anything beyond pressing more than a single button to either begin or end a call is against FMCSA regulations.
But as one might imagine, the ability to catch drivers who are breaking these rules is limited. What usually happens is that they get caught only after their distraction results in a major safety breach that causes a highway accident with injuries and/or fatalities.
It’s impossible to speculate how many of these commercial truck drivers have had near-misses that were narrowly averted or even that simply literally fly under the radar because they haven’t — yet — had to face the consequences of a horrific highway accident.
Hold distracted truckers liable
It may be of small comfort to those who have suffered serious injuries in collisions with distracted truckers to hold them civilly liable for the damages their negligence caused. In the event of a highway fatality, survivors of the deceased may be able to reap justice in both the criminal and civil courts for the loss of their loved ones.