Do truck drivers adhere to federal texting ban?

Semi Truck / Tractor Trailer at loading DockFor many drivers, it is common knowledge that texting while driving is an unsafe practice that should be avoided at all costs. Despite federal and state laws prohibiting the practice, more drivers than ever continue to text while behind the wheel every day. Unfortunately, truck drivers are often guilty of this offense. Las Vegas truck accident lawyers often see the disturbing effects of these accidents, which can affect individuals – both victims and truckers – for the rest of their lives.

Why it is a problem

According to Distraction.gov, texting is one of the most dangerous practices in which a person can engage. Researchers and scientists have classified three different types of distraction: visual, cognitive, and manual. Each type affects a person in different ways:

  • Visual – Visual distraction occurs when a person takes their eyes off the road ahead of them while driving. They are no longer seeing or aware of the conditions ahead of them, which makes them unable to promptly respond to any potentially dangerous situations that may arise.
  • Cognitive – When drivers are cognitively distracted, they may have their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel, but their minds are no longer focused on the task of driving. This can be caused by daydreaming, listening to music, holding conversations with other people in the vehicle, or operating a hands-free device. When distracted in this way, drivers have much slower response times.
  • Manual – Manual distraction occurs when drivers take their hands off the wheel. They may do this to perform other tasks or to simply avoid holding onto the wheel. Motorists may not have time to return their hands to the wheel and execute maneuvers in time to avoid accidents.

All of these forms of distraction can occur singly or in combination with the others. Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it involves all three forms of distraction. Drivers can be so focused on their cell phones that they do not have time to even recognize a danger before they cause an accident.

Investigating the issue

ABC News reports that a team of investigators recently decided to record video of truckers to determine how severe texting while driving really is. The New York-based investigation captured a disturbing number of truckers who were busier with their cell phones than with watching the road. The cameras were set up on major highways, which the greatest potential for deadly accidents. In the most alarming display of disregard for safety and the law, one trucker was observed carrying on two conversations on separate cell phones at the same time.

While the investigation was not a formal experiment, it shows that a dangerous number of truckers are making the conscious choice to break the law. In doing so, they place the lives of all those around them at risk.

Lives ruined

One trucker recently learned the devastating consequences that can accompany texting and driving. WHIO in Ohio reports that a trucker was allegedly busy texting when he should have been paying attention to the road. He was driving his tractor-trailer northbound on Interstate 71 in Verona, Kentucky, when he failed to notice his truck drifting and sideswiped an empty car on the shoulder. He lost control of his vehicle and then crossed over the median into the southbound lanes and collided with two cars. A man died as a result of his injuries, while another 64-year-old woman sustained life-threatening injuries. He tried to hide the fact that he was texting by erasing the messages, but law enforcement officers were able to recover the data.

The trucker’s negligent actions led to charges for manslaughter, assault, criminal mischief, tampering with evidence, three logbook violations, and a federal violation for using a cell phone in a commercial vehicle. However, none of these charges can bring back the life he claimed and the injuries others sustained, simply because he could not wait to send his messages.

Lax penalties

Despite the serious, life-altering effects truck accidents can have on those involved, many states, including Nevada, have lax penalties for offenders. Nevada’s commercial drivers only lose their license for 60 days after they have two violations, and 120 days for three or more violations in a three year period.

Federal laws are also in place, but Las Vegas truck accident lawyers know they lack enough bite to act as a serious deterrent. Truckers have been prohibited from using a hand-held cell phone since a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association rule went into effect in January 2012. Drivers who are discovered violating the rule face federal civil penalties of $2,750 per offense. Those who receive two or more offenses may face suspension of their commercial license.

Unfortunately, the FMCSA and the Department of Transportation lack the manpower to perform the surprise inspections that may catch texting truckers. The DOT reports that almost 16,000 truckers received tickets in 2013 for texting and driving, but only 4 were taken out of service entirely or suspended for a time. However, the number of drivers who text and drive is likely significantly higher.

If harsher penalties are not put in place, truckers are likely to continue engaging in this dangerous practice. Unfortunately, it only takes one episode of texting to claim the lives of innocent drivers or pedestrians.

Those who have been involved in a truck accident may find the help they need by contacting Las Vegas truck accident lawyers. With their assistance, accident victims or their families may successfully seek compensation for their medical bills, lost wages and the emotional and psychological effects of an accident.