Distracted Truckers Truck Accidents

Trucking can be a tedious, mind-numbing task. Many enjoy the solitude, but the hours are odd and long, the highways are monotonous and drivers are left with little but their own thoughts. And their smartphones. And their radio. And their lunch. And maybe even their pet.

Yes, truck drivers are just as susceptible to distraction as every other driver on the road.

Fort Lauderdale truck accident lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm, know in addition to Florida law barring texting behind the wheel, federal law specifically addresses distraction by truckers.

Passed in 2010, the Final Rule on limiting the use of wireless communication devices is codified by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in 49 CFR Parts 383, 384, 290, 391 and 392. Effective October 2010, commercial motor vehicle drivers are prohibited from texting while operating in interstate commerce. Further, companies are barred from requiring drivers to engage in texting while they are driving.

That rule pertains to:

  • Commercial truck drivers
  • School bus drivers
  • Motor coach drivers
  • Bus drivers

FMCSA cited research indicating the odds of being involved in a crash, near-crash or unintentional lane change is more than 23 times greater for a commercial motor vehicle driver who is texting. The goal of the rule is to reduce truck- and bus-related crashes, fatalities and injuries associated with distracted driving.

Motivation for the federal law was rooted in the known dangers of driving while distracted, amplified by the possible damage that may be done in a commercial truck. These vehicles can weigh up to 80,000 pounds, and when traveling at highway speeds, they are lethal.

Among some of the other facts noted following a recent FMCSA study:

  • Truckers dialing cell phones are nearly 6 times more likely to cause a crash.
  • Truckers reaching for a cell phone are nearly 7 times more likely to cause a crash.
  • Truckers using dispatch devices are 9 times more likely to cause a crash.
  • Truckers looking at maps are 7 times more likely to cause a crash.

Some crashes in which truck driver distraction have been cited:

  • In 2010, a 45-year-old Ohio truck driver who was watching pornography on his laptop computer while driving crashed into a stalled vehicle, killing a 33-year-old mother of two in New York on a state highway near Buffalo. The truck driver was also allegedly fatigued, and had not been following the hours-of-service regulations. He later pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter.
  • A 36-year-old truck driver in Arizona was convicted of negligent homicide and sentenced to six years in prison after a 2013 crash in which prosecutors say he was engaging in social media, pornography applications and escort service sites on his cell phone when he struck several vehicles, including a police cruiser. A 47-year-old police officer who was writing a report inside the cruiser was killed.
  • In 2015 in Kentucky, a truck driver was allegedly scrolling his cell phone when he slammed into the back of a 71-year-old woman’s vehicle, causing it to catch fire and resulting in fatal injuries to her, as well as a chain reaction crash involving several other vehicles. He was charged with reckless homicide and four counts of wanton endangerment.
  • In 2015, a 23-year-old beer truck driver in Central Florida was allegedly distracted by a small dog running loose inside the cabin. He drove onto the shoulder and then overcorrected, crossing several lanes of traffic, striking the center guardrail and overturning, spilling beer cans all over the interstate. He was cited for careless driving.

Evidence that a truck driver was texting while driving can be used to assert negligence per se. That is, because the driver was engaged in a violation of law that endangered others, he or she may be automatically deemed negligent in the resulting crash, and thus liable for damages.

Florida Distracted Driving Law

While federal law provides uniformity for truck drivers who routinely cross state lines, most states have their own distracted driving statutes.

Florida’s is admittedly rather weak.

F.S. 316.305 prohibits the act of text messaging, emailing or instant-messaging to engage in interpersonal communication while driving. But there are a host of exemptions, including:

  • Reporting criminal or suspicious activity
  • Receiving messages related to the operation or navigation of a vehicle, weather or traffic alerts or radio broadcasts
  • Using a device for navigation purposes
  • Talking on a cell phone

What’s more, it isn’t a primary offense, meaning police can’t stop a driver simply for texting while driving; there has to be some other traffic offense noted first. Relatively few drivers are cited for violating this statute for this very reason.

If you are injured in a truck accident involving a distracted driver, call our offices today to learn more about how we can help.

Contact the South Florida truck injury lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm, by calling (954) 761-4011 or toll-free at (888) ANSARA-8.