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New York Truck Accidents Caused by Distracted Driving

It is no secret that distracted driving is highly dangerous and all-too-common. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving played a role in 3,166 fatal crashes in 2017, making up more than 9 percent of all motor vehicle deaths that year.

These dangers are even more pronounced when the distracted driver is behind the wheel of a large truck. Manually dialing a cellphone or sending a text message takes about four seconds, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). During those four seconds, a truck traveling at 55 mph can travel the length of a football field without the driver looking up. On a crowded highway, an inattentive truck driver can do devastating damage in that time.

Driving a commercial truck safely requires the operator’s full attention. Commercial vehicles are inherently dangerous to operate, and truck drivers cannot afford to become distracted by cellphones or anything else inside or outside of their vehicle. If they do, serious or even fatal truck accidents could occur.

If you or a loved one was injured in a crash involving a distracted truck driver, you may be able to file a claim to recover compensation for damages. Contact our lawyers by calling 212-736-5300 or by filling out our contact form for a free case review.

Trucking Regulations: Cellphone Use

In recent years, the public has become aware of the dangers of cellphone use while driving. In light of this concern, federal and state laws have been enacted to prevent the damage that could be caused by drivers, including truckers, who use their cellphones while driving. The danger posed by truck drivers who try to use their cell phone while driving is widely recognized:

  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration: The FMCSA has banned interstate truck drivers from reading or sending text messages while driving.
  • New York state trucking laws: Under state law, all motorists in New York are banned from using their phone while they drive (whether for making a call, sending a text or browsing the internet), with exceptions for emergency services personnel and people calling emergency services. Commercial drivers have additional restrictions that extend that ban to brief stops such as traffic and red lights. In 2013, New York introduced special ‘Texting Zones’ on New York Thruways and Highways, so that motorists have safe alternatives instead of trying to use their phone while driving.

The law allows motorists and truckers to use hands-free technology to make phone calls as an alternative to holding a phone. However, this does not eliminate dangerous distractions. Even a hands-free device can be dangerous if the driver becomes distracted from the road while talking.

Even though federal and state laws have banned truck drivers from using cellphones while driving, many commercial vehicle operators still use mobile devices behind the wheel. If cellphone use leads to an accident, those injured as a result may have a claim against the driver or their employer to collect compensation for damages.

Other Distractions Affecting Truck Drivers

The NHTSA recognizes three major categories of distractions for motorists:

  • Visual distractions take a driver’s eyes away from the road and immediate conditions.
  • Manual distractions take a driver’s hands off the wheel.
  • Cognitive distractions take a driver’s mind off the task at hand.

Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it occupies a driver’s visual, manual and cognitive attention. But it is not the only dangerous distraction that can lead to collisions. Other examples of truck driver distractions include:

  • Fatigue: Federal hours-of-service regulations allow truck drivers to spend up to 11 hours at a time on the road, which can cause significant fatigue. When drivers are exhausted, they are more likely to fall victim to distractions.
  • Electronic distractions: Mobile phones aren’t the only devices that can distract drivers. GPS units, electronic logging devices (ELDs), and laptops can all monopolize a trucker’s attention.
  • Navigation: Paper maps have largely gone out of style, but those who still use them can experience diverted. Electronic GPS units are much safer and less distracting to use than paper maps, but even these devices are distracting.
  • Handling materials inside the cabin: Eating, drinking or reaching for something in the cabin all require a driver to remove their hands from the wheel and, in many cases, look away from the road.
  • Smoking: Smoking is both a manual and visual distraction. Lighting and ashing a cigarette, or reaching for an e-cigarette, can take a driver’s attention off the road.
  • Distractions outside the cabin: Data from the FMCSA and NHTSA found that an estimated 11,000 truck crashes over a three-year period involved a distraction outside the truck cab, such as a billboard, a landmark or another vehicle.

Proving Distracted Driving in Accident Claims

After a collision between a large truck and a passenger vehicle, the trucking company and its insurers immediately go to work trying to defend against a potential claim. Most of these companies have extensive experience defending against claims of distracted driving. It is critical that those affected by a crash arm themselves with their own experienced legal team.

At Block O’Toole & Murphy, our attorneys have secured millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for survivors of serious truck accidents. In addition to our decades of experience, we have the resources it takes to mount a thorough investigation into the causes of an accident. If the driver of the truck was distracted at the time of the crash, we will review records, logbooks, witness reports and expert testimony to prove it – and to hold the responsible party accountable.

New York Truck Accident Lawyers

To find out if you have legal recourse after a crash, it is wise to speak with a knowledgeable truck accident attorney as soon as possible. The right team can help you take action to protect your rights and pursue the maximum available compensation for your losses.

Contact our accident attorneys for a FREE case evaluation by calling 212-736-5300. We serve clients in Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, all of NYC and New York state.

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