Every year, truck accidents claim the lives of thousands of people and put thousands more into serious medical care in order to recover from the ordeal. These injuries are often far more serious than in normal car accidents because trucks are far larger than passengers cars, are more likely to be driving on the highway, and are higher from the ground. Despite these dangers and the regulations that are meant to prevent truck drivers from being distracted while behind the wheel, distracted truck driving is a serious problem in Philadelphia and the rest of the United States.
The Serious Problem of Truck Accidents
Every accident that involves a large truck or tractor trailer is likely to be a serious one, with severe damage and significant or even fatal injuries. This is because trucks are higher than cars are from the ground, meaning the focal point of any collision between a truck and a passenger vehicle will likely be higher on the car than it would have been if it had just hit another car. This drastically increases the likelihood of a serious or fatal head or neck injury for anyone in the car.
Worse, the weight of a tractor trailer means that any truck accident it is involved in will likely be far more severe than if it was just another car. While cars typically weigh around 3,000 pounds, even when they are empty, tractor trailers weigh nearly 30,000. When they are full of cargo, tractor trailers can weigh up to 80,000 pounds. All of this extra weight translates into additional force that increases the severity of any accident that happens.
Finally, trucks tend to stick to highways because they are the quickest from one destination to another when it is a long trip. Unfortunately, this means that trucks are often driving at highway speeds, so any accident they are involved in is likely to be a high-speed one, making it even more serious.
When these crashes do happen, though, they are often far more severe for any cars involved. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), in truck accidents involving a large truck and a passenger car and resulting in at least one fatality, an occupant in the passenger vehicle was killed 97% of the time.
Distracted Truck Drivers Cause Accidents
Unfortunately, truck drivers do not seem to take these dangers to heart. Instead, they drive while distracted constantly, drastically increasing the likelihood of causing a truck crash and severely hurting innocent occupants in the other vehicles on the road.
While most of the studies that investigate distracted driving have been done for cars, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has conducted a similar one that focused on truck drivers who were texting while behind the wheel. The study found that an average text message took a truck driver's eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. Assuming the truck driver was on a highway and observing a 55 mile per hour speed limit, which might be optimistic, this meant the truck would travel the length of a football field without the driver seeing the road. This distraction, according to the FMCSA, made truckers who texted 23.2 times more likely to cause a truck accident than those who did not text while behind the wheel.
These kinds of distractions have been making the roads of Philadelphia and the rest of the United States increasingly dangerous. The past two years have seen significant increases in the number of road accident fatalities, despite the number of miles traveled staying more or less stagnant. This means that drivers are getting worse, and distracted driving is a likely culprit.
To make matters worse, texting is only one way that a truck driver can get distracted while driving, and these distractions get more pronounced the longer a driver is behind the wheel. Fatigued drivers are more likely to get distracted because of how long they have been maintaining their focus on the road ahead of them. Unfortunately, truck drivers are much more likely to have spent an entire day driving than the driver of a normal car would.
Regulations Aim to Prevent Distracted Truck Driving
The dangers of distracted truck driving have not gone unnoticed by the government, and the FMCSA – the federal agency responsible for issuing road safety regulations – made a regulation in 2010 to prohibit truck and other commercial drivers from texting while driving. This regulation made texting while driving a civil offense for all commercial drivers, punishable by up to $2,750 in fines, while multiple offenses could result in a license suspension or revocation. Additionally, trucking companies could also be fined up to $11,000 under the regulation if their drivers were caught texting while behind the wheel.
This regulation comes from the federal government, and so runs parallel to many of the similar regulations that have also been passed by individual states, including Pennsylvania, that prohibit all drivers – not just commercial drivers – from texting while behind the wheel.
While these federal regulations and state laws are meant to keep other drivers safe while on the roads, they are often poorly enforced, leaving truck drivers free to break them with little chance of being caught.
Philadelphia Truck Accident Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
Truck accidents are an unfortunate part of reality for those who live in such a sizeable city as Philadelphia. With two major interstate highways going through the area – I-95 and I-76 – hundreds if not thousands of trucks pass through Philadelphia every day.
If one of these trucks is being driven by a distracted driver and you get hurt in the accident that results, there is no reason why you should have to pay for the costs of your own recovery when it was not your fault. That is why the personal injury attorneys at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian represent truck accident victims in Philadelphia. Contact us online or call us at (800) 529-6162 for a free consultation to explore your legal rights.