While the overall number of people killed in U.S. motor vehicle accidents fell in 2017, the number of people who died in crashes with large trucks rose.  What role did distracted truck drivers play in this jump in fatalities?

Earlier in October the U.S. Department of Transportation issued its report on fatal motor vehicle crashes for 2017.  Just over 37,100 men, women and children died in car and truck crashes, which is a 1.8 percent decrease over 2016.

Big Increase in Truck Crash Deaths

But deaths caused by truck crashes in 2017 countered this trend:

·         Fatalities in crashes with large trucks – those weighing 10,000 pounds or more – climbed 9 percent

·         People killed in accidents with tractor-trailer rigs rose 5.8 percent

·         Those who died in crashes involving straight trucks spiked 18.7 percent

One possible explanation for this dramatic, across-the-board rise in fatal truck accidents is there are more trucks on the road.  The surge in online shopping means more products shipped and more delivery trucks and 18-wheelers transporting those goods.

Distracted truck drivers may also be responsible in part for last year’s truck crash deaths.

Earlier this year the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published the results of its “2017 Traffic Safety Index.”  The research organization publishes this report each year, which seeks to take the nation’s temperature with regards to dangerous driving behaviors.  AAA specifically highlights speeding, drowsy driving, drunk driving and distracted driving in its report.

The report is based on interviews with 2,613 licensed drivers.  As an indicator as to just how rampant catastrophic car and truck crashes are in this county, nearly one-third of those surveyed said they had a friend or a loved one who was killed or seriously hurt in a motor vehicle accident.

When asked about the dangers of risky driving behaviors, 88 percent agree that distracted driving is on the rise.  Despite this, about half – 49 percent – reported recently talking on a cell phone when they drove.

Even more respondents (96.8 percent) noted how dangerous texting or emailing while driving is, yet just about 45 percent also said they read a text or an email while behind the wheel within the last month.

While this survey is not focused on truck drivers, the threat from truckers talking or texting on a cell phone is no less real.  In fact, given the size and weight of tractor-trailer combos, the odds for distracted truck drivers causing fatal accidents are multiplied.

Truck Drivers Using Cell Phones

That’s why federal law prohibits commercial motor vehicle drivers from using hand-held cell phones.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration states that commercial motor vehicle drivers who dial a cell phone are six times more likely to be in a crash or near crash than those who don’t.

The FMCSA estimates truck drivers who manually dial a cell phone take their eyes off the road for about 4 seconds.  In that length of time, traveling at 55 mph, the 18-wheeler can barrel the length of a football field while the trucker is looking down.

As cell phone use continues to grow, crashes caused by distracted drivers – including those in control of big rigs – may also grow.

If you were seriously injured or had a family member die in an accident involving a large commercial truck, speak with an attorney who represents truck accident victims to hold all responsible parties to account.

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.

Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Articles October 31, 2018