Accidents involving large commercial trucks like tractor-trailers, semi-trucks, big rigs, and 18-wheelers can cause much more extensive damage than a car vs. car collision. When a truck crashes, the risk of fatality is high. Truck drivers who operate these powerful, 40-ton vehicles have a duty to do so as safely as possible. If a truck driver drives distracted, they fail in this duty. Sadly, hundreds of people every year pay the price for these fatal mistakes.
At the law firm of DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC, we fight for the rights of individuals and families in Charleston whose lives have been devastated by trucking industry negligence. If you’d like to learn more about truck accident law in West Virginia or how our firm can help after an accident, reach out to schedule an appointment with an experienced truck accident attorney.
The Risks of Distracted Truck Driving
The CDC estimates that about eight people are killed every day in accidents involving distracted driving. When it comes to large commercial trucks, distracted driving is an especially serious issue. Trucks can range up to 30 times larger in weight than the smaller passenger vehicles sharing the roads around them, and they often have the responsibility of transporting hazardous materials like explosives and toxic liquids. There is no excuse for a driver who deliberately puts themselves in a situation in which their ability to drive safely is impaired—the definition of distracted driving.
Distracted driving is engaging in any activity that takes your attention away from focusing on driving safely. There are generally considered to be three categories of distraction: visual impairment, cognitive impairment, and manual impairment.
- Visual Impairment – Your eyes are taken off the road.
- Cognitive Impairment – Your mind is not on the task of driving.
- Manual Impairment – Your hands are not on the wheel.
Emotional impairment can also be considered a form of distracted driving. If for example, a driver becomes involved in a heated argument with a person in the car, or answers a phone call to receive tragic news, that driver’s ability to focus on safe vehicle operation is likely to be impaired. Distracted driving can come in many forms, but there are some activities that have often been found to contribute to distracted driving accidents. Common examples of distracted driving include:
- Texting and driving
- Hand-held mobile phone use
- Watching videos or video-calling
- Focusing too closely on a GPS or navigation system
- Eating and drinking
- Looking at something outside the vehicle window
- Conversations with other people in the car
- Changing clothes
- Taking drugs or medications
- Reaching for objects inside the vehicle
- Adjusting radio, temperature, or other controls in the vehicle
- Animals or children moving around in the vehicle
- Applying makeup or personal grooming
- Daydreaming or becoming lost in thought
Texting and driving is one of the most common and most dangerous forms of distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that checking one text message at 55 mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded. Texting while driving an 18-wheeler is even riskier, as large trucks need up to 40% farther than cars to stop after braking.
There is added risk of driver distraction for truckers who practically live in their vehicles for sometimes weeks on end. Because drivers are required to spend so much time in their trucks—usually alone—there is often a tendency to treat the truck cab like home. This can cause some truck drivers to be more likely to engage in distracting activities, like grooming, changing clothes, eating, and reaching around the compartment or on the floor to pick up objects. A significant number of drivers even turn to substance abuse in an effort to cope with the exhausting and isolating working conditions. Trucking companies have an obligation to protect their drivers from being overworked and driving under unsafe conditions. This is an obligation that is unfortunately violated far too often.
What Kind of Truck Accidents Can Distracted Driving Cause?
In research conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), it was found that a high percentage of truck accidents resulted when one of three situations happened. One, a truck left the travel lane and drove into another lane or off the road altogether. Two, the driver lost control of the vehicle due to any reason, and caused an accident. Three, the truck hit the back of another vehicle in the travel lane in front of them. All three of these situations can be the result of distracted driving.
When discussing crashes involving large commercial trucks, there are certain terms used to describe the accidents that are specific to these types of trucks. Tractor-trailers are much longer, heavier, and wider than cars, with a higher center of gravity. And there are added complications because there is hitching and towing, and large amounts of cargo, involved. For all of these reasons, truck accidents are different from other vehicle accidents.
The following types of truck accidents are ones that can result from distracted driving:
- Jackknife accidents – when the big rig folds at a 90° angle between the cab and trailer, often as a result of sudden braking
- Underride and override accidents – when a car goes under and is crushed beneath a truck, often when a truck stops abruptly
- Blind spot accidents – when a truck driver doesn’t see another car and hits it when turning or merging
- Rear-end collisions – when a truck hits the back of another vehicle in front of it
- Rollovers – when a semi driver loses control of the vehicle and it rolls over
Getting Legal Help After a Truck Accident
When truck driver, trucking company, or other party negligence leads to an accident that causes injury, truck accident law can help protect victims. The truck accident lawyers at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC fight for those who have suffered severe injuries and losses because of the carelessness or wrongdoing of another party. If you were hurt or lost a loved one in an accident involving a large truck, reach out for legal guidance. A member of our team can schedule a free consultation to hear your story and better understand how we may be able to help you recover losses.