Truck drivers have a difficult job and many make their tasks exponentially more difficult by allowing themselves to get distracted while driving their 60,000-pound tractor-trailer at highway speed. Minor distractions like eating or changing the radio can lead to major problems, but drivers who use an in-cab computer or their mobile phone while driving are playing a deadly game. Companies that refuse to eliminate a driver’s use of technology while driving are guilty of negligence.
A recent study found that when a truck driver is using his in-cab computer, his eyes are off the road 4.8 out of every 6 seconds. At highway speed, a truck travels over 500 feet during that time span. At full-braking, a tractor-trailer needs 300 feet to stop. A distracted driver compromises his ability to stop his tractor-trailer. Even during the 1.2 seconds when the commercial driver has his eyes on the road, he is experiencing “inattentive blindness” – his attention to the non-driving task effectively blinds the driver from appreciating objects in the roadway.
Many municipalities and most state legislatures have addressed the problem of mobile phone use by restricting drivers to only use a mobile phone through a hands-free system. While any little bit is helpful, these laws hardly address the root problem – distraction. Holding a phone while driving is almost exactly as distracting as utilizing a hands-free phone. The danger of utilizing a mobile phone lies in the distraction of the conversation, not in harmlessly holding a phone.
The federal government prohibits its employees from texting while driving. And, many companies restrict the use of technology while driving. But, far too many companies pretend driver inattention is not a problem. Instead of restricting computer use and prohibiting mobile phone use while driving, these companies are complicit in whatever accident is caused by its drivers.
Most conscientious commercial carriers have eliminated the ability to input commands into a tractor-trailer’s in-cab computer while driving. Communication from a vehicle’s engine to the in-cab computer eliminates the driver’s ability to use the keyboard. Only when a tractor-trailer is stopped can these in-cab computers be used. While policies may restrict a driver’s use of the in-cab computer, only a technological fix will adequately address the allure of technology in a tractor-trailer’s cab.
Mobile phone use of any kind is too distracting to safely navigate a commercial tractor-trailer on public roadways. A driver speaking on his mobile phone has the equivalent attention of a drunk driver with a blood-alcohol content of .08. Likewise, a driver who is texting while driving has the BAC equivalent of .24, or three times the legal limit. Mobile phone use by commercial truck drivers has no place in a safe society.
Our law firm has succeeded in proving negligence against commercial carriers who have not adequately addressed the safety issue of driving while utilizing technology.
WATTS GUERRA LLP