Truck Drivers and Distracted Driving – the Penalties and the Risks

Our South Carolina tractor trailer accident attorneys discuss penalties and risks for distracted truck drivers.

It is hard work to drive a heavy truck to transport goods and products. From long hours to operating vehicles that weigh up to 80,000 pounds to meeting strict deadlines, truck drivers in South Carolina and the rest of the United States have significant responsibilities.

When hours behind the wheel add up, a truck driver may fall victim to certain distractions. From cellphones to daydreaming, keeping your eyes and mind on the road can be challenging. While getting distracted is easy, distracted driving for truck drivers can be costly. Distracted driving can result in accidents that cause serious injuries and death. It can also carry penalties and civil consequences for truck drivers.

What Truck Drivers Need to Know About Distracted Driving

Distracted driving takes the lives of thousands of people in America every year.

The official U.S. government website on distracted driving reports that there were 3,154 people killed in distracted driving crashes in a single recent year.

According to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 202 large trucks involved in fatal distracted driving crashes in just one year, and 22 of the drivers involved in the crashes were using a cellphone at the time the accident occurred.

What Truck Drivers Need to Know About Distracted DrivingTruck drivers in South Carolina should also know that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has imposed strict regulations regarding the operation of trucks and other commercial vehicles. The laws set forth by the FMCSA address one of the most distracting behaviors that a driver can do while operating a large truck of other vehicle: using a cellphone.

According to an FMCSA webpage on Distracted Driving, texting or using handheld devices as a commercial carrier (truck driver) is strictly prohibited. According to the same website, texting is defined as:

Manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic device. This includes, but is not limited to, short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a Web page, or pressing more than a single button to initiate or terminate a voice communication using a mobile phone or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry, for present or future communication.

The rules are clear: using a cellphone while driving is prohibited. This includes all handheld cellphone use.

Penalties and Risks of Distracted Driving

Penalties and Risks of Distracted DrivingThe risks of distracted driving are clear: distracted driving can cause a traffic accident. Distraction.gov, citing data from a Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations publication published by the FMCSA, states that 5 seconds is the average time that a person’s eyes are off the road when texting and driving. While 5 seconds may not seem like a significant amount of time, when traveling at 55 mph, 5 seconds is enough time to cover the length of a football field. The FMCSA further reports that a driver who is texting while driving is 23.2 times more likely to experience an adverse event, such as a lane deviation, accident, or near accident.

If a driver is involved in an accident that is caused by distracted driver, they may face both civil and criminal penalties for the injuries they cause. They may also lose their job, and in some cases be liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

Because the FMCSA has strict regulations regarding the use of cellphones by commercial drivers, a violation of the law will result in consequences for the driver. A commercial driver who is caught using a cellphone while operating a large truck may be subject to civil penalties up to $2,750, as well as a being disqualified as a driver if multiple offenses occur. If a motor carrier allows their drivers to use a mobile phone while operating a commercial vehicle, the motor carrier may face civil penalties, including a fine of up to $11,000.

How Distracted Driving Could Cost You Your Life

How Distracted Driving Could Cost You Your LifeTruck drivers are not the only ones who are distracted on the roads. Drivers of standard passenger cars are frequently responsible for distracting driving accidents. As a truck driver, it is important to drive defensively. When other drivers are not paying attention to what is going on, an engaged truck driver who is focused on safe driving may be able to prevent an accident.

If you notice a driver who is operating their vehicle in an unsafe manner, you can notify the police. If the driver is posing an imminent threat to others on the road, you can call the police by dialing 911. If you place a phone call to report an unsafe driver, do not do so while driving. Instead, pull over to a safe area of the road before using your cellphone.

What to Do When Distracting Driving Causes a Car Accident

South Carolina is a tort liability state, meaning that drivers – or their insurance companies – are responsible for paying for the accidents that they cause. Further, South Carolina is a comparative negligence state, which means that the amount of damages that you can collect can be reduced in proportion to your degree of fault, according to the South Carolina Department of Insurance. To help you to understand liability in an accident, how to file a claim, and how much you may be able to recover, it is important to speak with an experienced South Carolina truck accident attorney.

The attorneys at Joye Law Firm want to provide you with a free case consultation where you can discuss your car or truck accident in more details and receive information about your options for moving forward. Serving Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Charleston, Clinton, and surrounding areas, we are ready to get to work now. For help dealing with a serious accident, call our offices directly or use our online contact form to tell us more about your case today.