Crashes involving large trucks claimed more than 3,000 lives in 2012, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Truck accidents often have devastating consequences for other motorists since trucks may weigh more than 20 times what passenger vehicles do. Though some large truck accidents are caused by unavoidable circumstances, the leading accident cause is driver error, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Distracted driving has been identified as one common behavior that causes errors and needlessly puts the lives of Illinois drivers in danger.
Drivers of large trucks must actively plan ahead and monitor changing conditions to avoid accidents, so even minor distractions can be unsafe. One FMCSA study found distraction was a definite cause in 10 percent of large truck accidents. With more than 300,000 large truck accidents causing over 100,000 injuries and 3,921 fatalities in 2012 alone, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number of injuries and fatalities caused by distracted truck drivers is not trivial.
Texting and dialing are especially dangerous distractions. Research from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute indicates that texting raises the crash risk 23 times for large truck drivers, while simply dialing a phone raises the risk 5.9 times. The FMCSA targets these risks by banning truck drivers from texting or using handheld cell phones, but these regulations can be difficult to enforce.
Unfortunately, research has established that many legal distractions also increase accident risk. Common but dangerous behaviors include eating, adjusting in-vehicle controls and reaching for objects inside the vehicle. The FMCSA publishes recommendations on truck driver best practices but cannot enforce sanctions for these behaviors, which may leave other motorists vulnerable.
Injured victims’ rights
People who are injured in a large truck accident involving distracted driving are entitled to compensation, if they can prove negligence on the part of the driver or the trucking company. Negligence may be established even if a driver was not breaking FMCSA regulations and Illinois law. Legal distracted behaviors and the accidents they cause often represent reasonably preventable dangers for which drivers can be held liable.
Illinois accident victims are given two years from the date of injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. Illinois law requires the victim to prove fault, which can be done through official accident reports and medical documentation of the injuries sustained. Victims who establish fault are entitled to economic damages for expenses associated with the injuries and non-economic damages for pain and suffering. These awards cannot reverse the damage done, but they can help victims manage their expenses while learning to live with their injuries.