Distracted driving accidents caused over 5,400 deaths and over 448,000 injuries in 2009. While the number of distracted driving deaths is down from 2008, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood notes that the problem may be greater than the statistics let on.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) the percentage of distracted driving auto accidents increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in last year. Additionally, many distracted driving accidents are not classified correctly, which, according to Secretary LaHood, means that the effects of distracted driving go well beyond the numbers.
In 2009, drivers distracted by cell phones at the time of a fatal accident represented 20 percent of all distracted drivers. Nearly 2,400 accidents last year involved distracted drivers of light and large trucks and in 23 percent of those crashes involved drivers using a cell phone at the time of the accident.
FMCSA Cell Phone Study
Recently the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration commissioned a study aimed at examining activities that distract commercial truck and bus drivers. The study, conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, examined over 1,000 truck accidents, 8,300 near collisions and over 30,000 crash-relevant conflicts.
The report found that while talking on the phone, by itself, did not present a statistical increase in the risk of a semi-truck being involved in an accident, but the truck driver must engage in risky behaviors to get to that point. According to the study, the driver, "must take several risk-increasing steps in order to use the electronic device for conversation." Acts like dialing, reaching for a headset or phone and other visual distractions created more of an environment for a tractor-trailer accident than actually speaking on the phone.
State cell phone laws did not have a statistically significant impact on preventing the driver's use of mobile devices. A fleet policy restricting cell phone use, however, made 18-wheeler drivers 17 percent less likely to use a phone while behind the wheel.
Working With an Attorney
While the dangers of distracted driving are clear, some truck drivers also speed, drive too many consecutive hours and engage in other behaviors that increase the chances of a crash. Because of the size and weight of commercial vehicles, the consequences of truck accidents are devastating.
If you have been injured in a truck accident, it is important to discuss your options with an experienced personal injury attorney.