Although driving a large commercial truck requires skill and concentration, some truck drivers engage in distractive behaviors while sitting behind the wheel for an extended period of time. Just as distracted driving is extremely dangerous for Tennessee motorists, it is especially hazardous for large truck operators, as they are responsible for handling vehicles weighing up to 80,000 pounds. When truck drivers remove their focus off of the road it can result in devastating truck accidents.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,802 people lost their lives in large truck accidents in 2012. Approximately 107 of those deaths occurred in Tennessee and many of them stemmed from distracted truck drivers.
Types of truck driver distractions
According to U.S. News, the following activities are significant sources of truck driver distraction:
- Talking or texting on a cellphone: Engaging in these activities while driving inhibits a truck driver’s ability to mentally focus on the road. Texting while driving is also against the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s regulations, which ban the practice for commercial truck drivers in America.
- Eating: Driven by the need to meet an important deadline or make some addition money on their next paycheck, truck drivers may choose to have their meal while behind the wheel. Not only does eating and drinking while driving require the truck driver to remove their hands from the steering wheel, but spilled food can create a vehicular hazard.
- Programming navigation devices and switching radio stations: Whether truck drivers are adjusting the radio, searching for a CD or programming a navigation device, their eyes, hands and mental focus are taken away from the task of driving. This brief interference increases the risk of serious injury to other motorists on the road.
A distracted truck driver was charged with second-degree murder, six counts of criminal damage and 13 instances of endangerment stemming from a devastating truck accident. According to the Huffington Post, the truck driver’s dash camera recorded him watching videos on his cellphone while driving along the Arizona highway. It also recorded the commercial truck quickly approaching a law enforcement vehicle, which was parked alongside the road. The tractor trailer was going 65 miles per hour when it struck the vehicle, instantly killing the officer inside.
In an attempt to reduce the number of serious injuries and fatalities that occur each year as a result of distracted truck drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has enacted a ban on texting and driving. The law also restricts truck drivers from reaching for and holding a cellular device while driving. Truck drivers caught engaging in these illegal behaviors may face significant fines of up to $11,000. Although hands free cellular devices are legal to use, many studies show the inherent dangers that cognitive distraction has on commercial truck drivers.