There are many things going on inside and outside of the cab of a commercial truck that can distract the truck driver’s attention and lead to a crash. Federal statistics for the most recent year reported say “distraction/inattention” on the part of truck drivers was the second most common cause of fatal accidents involving large trucks.
Truck drivers communicate with their dispatchers and offices using mobile communication devices. They consult maps and navigation systems to find their delivery destinations. They have personal cellphones. They eat, drink and smoke. They have radios. The list of potential distractions is lengthy. Yet a truck driver who takes his or her eyes off of the road for four seconds at 65 mph covers more than the length of a football field essentially blind to what lies ahead.
Anyone injured in an accident involving a large truck in Indiana should speak to an experienced truck accident attorney about their legal options to seek compensation for their injuries and associated costs and losses. At Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC, our truck accident law firm can investigate to determine whether distracted driving on the part of the truck driver or another act of negligence caused a truck accident.
The stakes are high in commercial truck accidents because occupants of passenger cars and other smaller vehicles are likely to have been seriously harmed in a collision with a tractor-trailer or other large truck. Trucking companies and their attorneys act aggressively after serious accidents to deny or minimize responsibility for what are likely to be expensive claims. You should seek the help of an experienced truck accident lawyer as soon as possible if you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident.
Take advantage of a free consultation with a truck accident injury lawyer at Craig, Kelley & Faultless today. Our firm has two attorneys with national certification in commercial truck accident litigation. Contact us to schedule a free consultation. We will review the facts of the truck accident you were in and explain your legal options.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving in Large Trucks
Because of their weight, large commercial trucks require more distance to slow and stop than even the largest passenger car or pickup truck requires. Meanwhile, the combination of a truck’s weight and speed exponentially compounds the force of impact in a collision.
Under ideal conditions, a passenger car traveling 65 mph would take about 300 feet to stop (the length of a football field). A fully loaded tractor-trailer moving at 65 miles per hour will need about 525 feet to stop. As a commercial truck approaches a highway work zone, backed-up traffic or a red stoplight at 65 mph, every second of delay in braking subtracts 95 feet from the distance available to stop.
A truck’s stopping distance increases when it is hauling a particularly heavy load and/or there are adverse road conditions such as snow, ice or rain that slicken pavement and reduce traction.
A distracted truck driver might plow into stopped traffic, a highway construction zone or an intersection at full speed and cause a collision. While a truck driver is distracted, the truck might drift out of its lane and sideswipe another vehicle or cross the centerline and cause a head-on crash.
The trucker who brakes suddenly or swerves to avoid a collision risks jackknifing or rolling the big rig. Sudden braking or swerving to avert a collision could cause cargo to shift and alter the truck’s center of gravity, causing a truck rollover accident.
A large truck collision with other vehicles can cause serious injuries or fatal injuries. A cargo spill or rollover accident can cause widespread destruction, particularly if there is a hazardous cargo spill.
Activities That Distract Truck Drivers
Distracted driving refers to any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the task of driving the vehicle. A truck driver’s distractions can come from both inside and outside of the truck cab.
Driver distractions inside a truck cab include:
- Dialing, texting and talking on cell phones
- Using dispatching devices
- Using tablets, laptops, GPS devices and other personal electronic devices
- Eating / drinking
- Grooming (combing/brushing hair, brushing teeth)
- Adjusting controls for heat/AC, radio, windows, mirrors or lights.
- Interacting with passengers
Distractions outside of a truck may include looking at a passing building, billboard, scenery or pedestrian. Like other drivers, curious truckers may look too long or crane their necks to see another wreck, a disabled vehicle, debris in the highway or something along the roadside.
A truck driver on a long trip might be inattentive due to boredom and/or fatigue and may become lost in thought or begin to daydream or nod off.
Regardless, accidents caused by distracted driving among truck drivers happen frequently. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), which regulates commercial trucking in the U.S., reports about 250 truck accidents each year that have at least one reported driver distraction contributing to the crash. That’s about 6% of all large truck accidents.
How Do You Recognize a Distracted Driver?
One of the tell-tale signs of a distracted driving crash is the lack of braking or attempts to avoid the collision. Unfortunately, a lack of effort to avoid the collision also contributes to the seriousness of injuries in a distracted driving crash.
As our investigators look into the circumstances of a truck accident, they visit the accident scene and seek to obtain information from the truck’s Event Data Recorder (EDR). At an accident scene, a lack of tire skid marks or short and heavy skid marks indicate no braking or a late effort to stop. We can make photos of this evidence to potentially present and explain in court.
How to Prove that the Truck Driver Was Distracted
A truck’s EDR records provide a variety of data about the truck’s operations from just before a crash, including the speed, acceleration and braking or lack of braking. These “black box” devices also record steering trajectory, showing whether the driver veered away to avoid a crash or failed to steer their vehicle out of the path toward a collision.
Evidence of no braking and steering straight into a collision or of late braking and a sudden swerve is evidence of a driver unaware of where his or her truck was headed.
Securing each of these sources of evidence requires prompt action by an attorney. Skid marks wash away over time. A crashed truck may be junked before it can be examined by investigators if you delay in contacting a truck accident lawyer to take steps to preserve evidence. The EDR data of a crashed truck piloted by an at-fault driver may be destroyed.
Our aim is to send investigators to truck accident scenes promptly and to issue spoliation letters advising trucking companies of our investigations immediately after being engaged by clients. A spoliation letter cites records and other materials that should be preserved as evidence. If such evidence is unavailable after a promptly issued spoliation letter, this works against the defendant in court.
In addition to EDR data, we would request preservation of such evidence as:
- The truck, to inspect its damage.
- The truck driver’s cellphone records, which could indicate illegal use behind the wheel
- Dispatch communications with the trucker.
- Any in-cab camera footage. Some larger motor carriers monitor their drivers.
- Hours of Service (HOS) records, which are to show details of when a trucker has driven and rested in accordance with federal regulations.
As part of our investigation, we would obtain the police report about the accident, seek out eyewitnesses to the crash to obtain statements from them and seek any public or private surveillance camera footage from near the accident scene that might have captured the crash.
Sometimes our attorneys hired accident reconstruction specialists who can examine the evidence to determine how a truck accident occurred and produce a detailed report and testify in court, if necessary.
However, motor carriers are only required to keep records for designated lengths of time, so potentially important evidence may be lost if you wait too long to engage an attorney to investigate your claim.
Contact a Distracted Truck Driving Accident Attorney in Indiana
The dedicated legal team at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC investigates commercial truck accidents thoroughly and prepares each case as if it will go to trial. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident that may have been caused by a distracted truck driver, we have the experience and skills needed to secure the evidence and identify how and why the accident occurred. We are aggressive negotiators and skilled litigators who will press hard to obtain maximum compensation for you.
Contact us at (800) 746-0226 or online for a free consultation about pursuing a claim for you. We handle truck accident cases in Indiana on a contingency fee basis, meaning that we only get paid when we recover compensation for you. Reach out today. If you are unable to come to us, we will come to you.