Legislation and law enforcement are struggling to keep up with the growing problem of driver distraction as cell phones become more common. According to Distraction.gov, there were approximately 421,000 distraction-related injury accidents. In response to these alarming numbers, the federal government has banned the use of hand held electronic devices for every commercial vehicle operator on the nation’s roads.
2013 Illinois traffic data shows that there were 10,397 large truck accidents in 2013, and 17 percent of these resulted in injuries or fatalities. A Chicago truck accident lawyer may express concern that, from 2012 to 2013, truck crash fatalities rose by 12.8 percent.
Distraction-related truck accidents
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enforces safety regulations in the trucking industry that lower the risk of tractor trailer accidents. The agency defines texting specifically as entering any information onto or reading information from an electronic device. Any physical contact with the phone that involves pressing more than one button is considered texting.
A driver’s first offense results in a $2,750 fine, according to the FMCSA. If a second offense occurs within three years, the driver is disqualified from driving for 60 days. Victims of distraction-related truck accidents may find these penalties insignificant. These penalties may not seem significant enough to victims of collisions caused by distracted truck drivers.
ABC news reports that videos from cameras set up on highways prove many are disregarding this law. In 2014, a texting trucker slammed into the back of a car slowing down in response to traffic and pushed it into another truck, killing both passengers. In a related story that a Chicago truck accident lawyer may be aware of, a trucker ran into five emergency vehicles on the side of the road while looking at Facebook on his phone. One law enforcement official was killed in the crash.
Passenger vehicle fatalities
At 55 miles per hour, a loaded tractor trailer takes approximately 335 feet to stop. Drivers who text are looking away from the road for an average of five seconds, during which time a truck on the highway travels about the length of a football field. A texting trucker may not have time to hit the brakes at all.
A loaded tractor trailer typically weighs 95 percent more than the average passenger vehicle. This disparity significantly increases the risk for car occupants. In 2013 truck crash fatalities, 90 percent of the victims were in the smaller vehicles.
The physical, emotional and financial damage of these accidents can be devastating. Victims may be able to receive compensation with the legal assistance of a Chicago truck accident lawyer.