When we say truck driver distractions can be deadly, more often than not, we don’t mean deadly for the truck driver. According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration, nearly 73 percent of those killed in truck accidents were not truck occupants. Although driving distractions can be deadly for all drivers, truck driver distraction poses an extreme danger to Clearwater drivers. So, what is being done to prevent truck driver distraction and what are your rights after a serious Florida truck accident?
Causes of Truck Driver Distraction
Whether a driver is “distracted” while operating a motor vehicle depends or his or her specific behavior. Generally, distraction is not defined by what you are doing, but rather by the consequences of that action. Distracted driving generally falls into three categories:
- Visual: When a driver’s eyes are not on the road at the time of or immediately prior to the accident
- Manual: When a driver’s hands or feet lose contact with the steering wheel or pedals
- Cognitive: When the driver is not focused on driving, i.e., daydreaming
In Florida, “distracted driving” is specifically defined as a crash that occurred because a driver was:
- Texting or using his phone
- Talking to passengers
- Eating or drinking
- Adjusting the radio
- Generally being inattentive
- Distracted by external factors, such as witnessing an accident
However, distracted driving can consist of anything that causes a driver to lose visual, manual, or cognitive control while driving. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), distracted driving is one of the leading causes of large truck crashes, and this includes distraction due to impairment such as fatigue, alcohol/drug use, and illness. Such impairment can cause a truck driver to lose cognitive focus on the road, so what can be done?
Federal Truck Driving Regulations
Because cognitive distraction due to impairment is one of the leading causes of fatal truck accidents, federal commercial vehicle regulations now include truck-driving limits intended to prevent fatigue and illness. There are three types of hours-of-service regulations that commercial truck drivers must adhere to:
- The 14-hour driving window – truck drivers are provided with a 14-hour “window” with which they can drive up to 11 hours; however, a truck driver must have been off duty for at least 10 hours in order to activate the window;
- The 11-hour driving limit – Within a truck driver’s 14-hour window, he is only allowed to drive his truck for 11 total hours; however, a driver must be within 8 hours of his or her last break, which is required to be at least 30 minutes. Put simply, a driver cannot drive for more than 8 consecutive hours without taking a 30-minute break;
- The 60/70-hour duty limit – A driver is not allowed to operate the truck for more than 60 hours within a seven–day period or more than 70 hours within an eight–day period;
- The 34-hour restart – If a truck driver wants to “restart” his 60 or 70-hour clock, he must take 34 consecutive hours off duty, including sleep. If the driver does not take the allotted time off, there are always “hours” left on the week that will not reset.
These regulations apply to the entire trucking industry and to the individual driver, not the trucking company itself. Further, “off-time” does not include resting in the truck at a rest stop or riding as a truck passenger. Because these regulations may be difficult to track, and truck drivers may be tempted to circumvent them in order to return home more quickly, it is important to contact a Florida truck accident attorney who understands these complex regulations if you have been involved in a truck accident.
Truck driving is a difficult profession due to lonely hours on the road and the focus necessary to operate a large truck safely for hours on end. Accordingly, not only can truck drivers get distracted with mobile devices or radios, many truck drivers have turned to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with their profession. This is extremely dangerous because it’s one issue if a drunk or “buzzed” driver of a small sedan rear-ends another vehicle at low speed, but it is another matter if the driver of a large eighteen-wheeler rear-ends another vehicle with the same blood alcohol level and at the same speed. The weight and force of even a slow-moving truck will be transferred to the smaller vehicle to a greater extent, which will result in more serious injuries to the passengers of the rear-ended vehicle.
For this reason, the FMCSA requires mandatory drug and alcohol testing for anyone holding a commercial driver’s license (CDL). It further has a set of regulations in place for reinstating drivers who have had DUI violations in the past. Importantly, the Department of Transportation charges all employers with implementing its drug and alcohol regulations for commercial drivers, which means that if a truck driver violates these regulations an employer may be held vicariously liable for the violation if it failed to follow those procedures in place for ensuring its drivers were not endangering the public.
Contact a Clearwater Truck Accident and Personal Injury Attorney Today
Providing driver distraction can be complex, especially when there is only circumstantial evidence of such. When it comes to truck driving, however, the more stringent regulations applicable to commercial vehicle drivers may help your attorney prove to the court that the truck driver’s distraction caused your injuries. For example, if the truck driver was outside of his hours of service window, tested positive for drugs or alcohol, or reports show he was using his handheld device at the time of the accident, you may have a strong case for negligence based on truck driver distraction.
If you have been injured in a truck accident or a loved one was killed as a result of distracted truck driving, contact the Dolman Law Group today. They have the personal injury and truck accident lawyers you need in the greater Clearwater area, and they can analyze your claim in accordance with federal trucking regulations. Call them today at 727-451-6900 for a free, no-risk consultation or contact them online.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765