Distracted driving is quickly becoming the top cause of automobile accidents. According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration, in 2020 there were 3,142 deaths due to distracted driving, that accounts for 8.7% of all crash fatalities. While many states have enacted laws that put penalties into place for drivers who drive distracted, Montana, as of this time, is not one of those states. Some cities throughout Montana have banned texting while driving in city limits. See map.
There is no doubt that the use of a cell phone is a problem, Montana’s Vision Zero project, notes that “sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent – at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.”
What is Considered Distracted Driving?
A distraction is considered anything that does one of three things.
- Diverts your eyes from the road
- Distracts your mind from the task of driving, or
- Takes your hands off the wheel.
Any activity distracting you from safely operating your vehicle is considered a distraction. Distracted driving is responsible for thousands of injuries and fatalities a year.
Is Distracted Driving Different For Truckers?
While distracted driving is unsafe for any driver, it can be even more hazardous when a commercial trucker drives distracted. The law holds truck drivers to higher standards because of the sheer size of their trucks compared to smaller passenger vehicles. When a big rig or semi-truck collides with a passenger vehicle, those in the smaller car are disproportionately killed or catastrophically injured.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has stringent rules for truck drivers regarding cell phone usage because of the high-risk loads they carry and the size of the trucks. These rules ban the following for truck drivers—no matter which state they are in:
- Texting or reading texts
- Dialing a cell phone
- Requesting access to a web page or social media site
- Holding a cell phone while receiving or making a phone call
- Using any type of email, instant messaging service, or other messaging services while driving
The FMCSA has also shown that truckers who text while driving are 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a “safety-critical event.”
Other distractions include setting a GPS, using a calculator, interacting with a dispatch device, eating, looking at a map, talking to a passenger, or even daydreaming instead of paying attention to the road can cause a truck driver to have an accident.
Truck drivers are also more likely to have a near-collision than other drivers when they drive distracted. Federal law limits truck drivers to only using hands-free phones in close proximity. This is because studies show that truck drivers distracted by mobile phones are three times more likely to drive at least ten miles over the speed limit. They are also less likely to wear a seatbelt or stop at an intersection. While there are many forms of distracted driving, mobile devices are the predominant cause of distracted driving accidents.
Imagine a 60,000-pound truck traveling at 55 mph with a distracted driver on the phone for 4.6 seconds. That truck would have covered the length of two football fields during that time, without any attention to the roadway.
Penalties for Driving Distracted as a Commercial Truck Driver
If law enforcement catches a truck driver using a cell phone while driving, they can face having their CDL license revoked and fines as hefty as $2,750. The truck driver’s employer can face a fine as high as $11,000. The FMCSA can disqualify a truck driver’s CDL license for at least 60 days if they have two texting and driving convictions within three years or up to 120 days if convicted three or more times within three years.
What Can a Truck Accident Lawyer Do To Help?
If you get into a truck accident caused by a distracted trucker, you need a lawyer on your side quickly. Your lawyer can gather the necessary evidence to show that the trucker drove distracted at the time of the crash. This may include:
- A distracted driving citation
- The police report
- Eyewitness statements
- Dashcam footage
- An accident reconstruction
- In-cab footage
- 6-months of driver records
- Download the black box data the records truck speeds and breaking.
It can be challenging to prove a distracted truck driver caused your accident, and several entities may be responsible for your injuries. Hiring an experienced Montana truck accident attorney to help you prove that distraction was the cause of your accident can make a massive difference in the outcome of your accident.
Contact Our Helena Truck Accident Lawyers
John Doubek and the lawyers at Doubek, Pyfer & Storrar, PLLP have legal experience in auto crashes, defective products, medical negligence, work accidents, wrongful death, insurance bad faith, business disputes, and Securities and Exchange matters.