Truck drivers are paid to spend long and tedious hours behind the wheel of their rigs, and they often rely on music or other entertainment to stay awake.
While listening to the radio or drinking coffee can go a long way towards preventing drowsy driving incidents, they may pose another threat to safety: distraction.
The Three Types of Driver Distraction
Although the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) expressly forbids truckers from engaging in distracting activities, distracted driving remains one of the most common causes of truck accidents nationwide. Distractions can take many forms, but generally fall into one of three categories:
- Visual. A visual distraction is anything that takes a driver’s eyes off of the road. Glancing down to read a text message or reading a billboard are both forms of visual distraction.
- Manual. A manual distraction takes a driver’s hands off of the wheel or his feet off of the pedals. Reaching into the passenger’s seat, removing a shoe, or adjusting the radio are all manual distractions, even if the driver is still watching the road.
- Cognitive. Anything that takes a driver’s focus from the road and necessary driving activities can be a cognitive distraction. Daydreaming, stress, thinking about a fight with a spouse, or body pain from an injury can all be cognitive distractions.
Many activities can cause two or all three forms of distraction, making them especially dangerous to perform while driving. Texting, in particular, is a deadly activity, since it requires thought to compose a message, a driver’s eyes to read and write messages, and fingers to type a response.
Common Distractions That Cause a Trucker to Crash
Commercial vehicles take concentration and skill to control, and their weight and size increases the risk of an accident having fatal consequences. As a result, federal law imposes stiff fines on truckers and commercial truck companies for breaking distracted driving laws.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to prove that a truck driver was engaging in distracting activity without the help of an experienced truck crash attorney.
In the moments before a crash, truckers are often distracted by:
- Texting. Florida law prohibits any form of texting while driving, including reading and sending text messages. However, many drivers ignore this law, and commercial drivers are no exception.
- Talking. While many Florida drivers can talk on handheld or hands-free cell phones while driving, commercial drivers are forbidden from using any kind of mobile device for verbal or nonverbal communication. Still, many truckers make and take calls during their long hours on the road.
- Visual entertainment. Although it's extremely dangerous, some truckers pass the time by browsing the internet, playing games, or even watching movies and TV shows online or through portable devices.
- Using electronics. Even electronics that can aid driving—such as the dispatch radio, a stereo system, internal GPS, or navigation devices—all require some level of input and interaction with the driver.
- Eating. Truckers often eat entire meals while driving, increasing the risk of a crash with each bite. Having coffee or a snack may only require one hand, but it can quickly end in disaster if the driver spills in his lap or drops an item into the footwell.
- Non-driving activities. Anything from personal grooming (such as brushing teeth and shaving) to weight lifting and engaging in reckless “driving games” can, and do, cause accidents.
- External distractions. There is no limit to the ways a driver can divert his attention from the road, including surveying an accident scene, rubbernecking at other motorists, reading billboards, and surveying the scenery.
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