Distraction among WV commercial drivers can have deadly consequences

Research indicates that distracted driving may disproportionately raise the risk of accidents for truck drivers and the risk of injury for other drivers.

Many people in Charleston, West Virginia, have seen recent media coverage of truck drivers making irresponsible and outright dangerous decisions, such as using electronic devices while driving. In New York, video surveillance recently caught truckers talking, dialing cellphones and texting while driving, according to ABC News. One trucker was even seen carrying on conversations on two separate cellphones.

With federal regulations and state laws prohibiting truckers from many distracted driving behaviors, many people like to think that truck driver distraction is a relatively uncommon problem. Disturbingly, though, research indicates that such incidents may not be as isolated as many drivers would like to imagine.

Distraction And Crash Risk

To identify factors that commonly contribute to truck crashes, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration conducted a study of 963 truck accidents that caused fatalities or injuries, which was published as the Large Truck Crash Causation Study. Researchers found that truck driver errors or failings were the overwhelming cause of accidents, playing a role in 87 percent of all crashes.

Researchers grouped driver errors into four categories: non-performance, recognition, decision and performance. Driver recognition errors, which occurred when drivers were inattentive, distracted or otherwise unable to appropriately observe a situation, were the second most common type of error. More than one-quarter of the accidents reviewed involved recognition errors.

Alarmingly, past research has also indicated that certain distracted driving behaviors are riskier for commercial vehicle drivers than passenger vehicle drivers. According to CNN, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute observed the following performance effects during a 2009 study:

  • Truckers were 5.9 times more likely to experience accidents while dialing phones, whereas dialing raised accident risk 2.8 times for passenger vehicle drivers.
  • Crash risk increased 6.7 times when truckers reached for electronic devices, compared to just 1.4 times for passenger vehicle drivers.
  • Overall, texting truck drivers were 23 times more likely to experience a crash or near-crash incident than focused drivers.

It is not surprising that distracted driving has such exaggerated effects on the accident risk for truck drivers, since driving a truck presents different challenges than driving a passenger vehicle.

Issues Unique To Large Trucks

Trucks have distinct performance limitations and associated risks. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, trucks need more relative distance to brake, especially in wet or slick road conditions. Trucks are also more prone to roll over or have smaller vehicles ride under them, due to their higher ground clearance. Considering these issues, it is not surprising that distraction lowers the likelihood that truck drivers will be able to prevent or avoid crashes.

Unfortunately, when truck drivers make mistakes, the consequences can be steep for other drivers. The IIHS reports that trucks typically weigh 20 to 30 times more than passenger vehicles do, and the victims of fatal truck accidents are most often passenger vehicle occupants. Injuries sustained by passenger vehicle occupants can also easily be more severe than those sustained by truck drivers.

If you or any loved ones have been harmed in a large truck accident, especially one in which the driver was acting negligently, please consider speaking with an attorney about pursuing compensation.

Keywords: truck accident, auto accident, personal injury