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Distracted Truck Drivers Pose Big Dangers on the Road

Two tragedies earlier this summer highlight the extreme dangers posed to motorists by distracted truck drivers. In Illinois, a distracted trucker triggered a nine-vehicle crash that killed three people; in Missouri an inattentive truck driver killed two people when he rear-ended their vehicles.

Deadly Inattentiveness

St. Louis’s KSDK TV spoke with a police officer on the scene of the fatal Missouri crash involving a big rig who said motorists can get killed and injured by truck drivers who are “inattentive, and traveling with an 80,000 pound vehicle….”

The trucker in that crash told police that he had taken his eyes off of the road. When he looked back, traffic in front of his tractor-trailer had come to a stop, making it impossible for him to slow his truck in time.

Research shows that just a few seconds of distraction can prove deadly, especially when the distracted driver is behind the wheel of a large truck.

Texting While Driving a Large Truck

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute studied truckers who text while driving and found that those drivers were 23 times more likely to have a crash or near-crash than those who didn’t text while behind the wheel. Researchers found that the truckers took their eyes off of the road for just five seconds – but that this was enough time to travel more than the length of a football field.

That study showed that truck drivers raise risks of crashes when performing complex tasks while driving. Interacting with a dispatching device raises the risks by a factor of nine; looking at a map raises the crash and near-crash risk seven times; reaching for an electronic device makes a crash or near-crash nine times more likely.

Because 18-wheelers are more difficult to maneuver and take longer to stop than cars, those five seconds of inattention are especially dangerous to other motorists and their passengers.

The Dangers of Drowsiness

Sleepiness is another factor that too often contributes to hazardous operation of large trucks. Because truck drivers are typically under pressure to deliver their loads in the shortest amount of time possible, many skip needed sleep while on long hauls.

A 2000 study of sleep-related problems among truck drivers showed that 40 percent of long-haul drivers reported difficulties in staying alert on at least one-fifth of their trips. More than 20 percent of the long-haulers also reported having dozed off while behind the wheel.

The problem with inattentive or sleepy truck drivers is enhanced by the size of vehicles weighing up to 80,000 pounds.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, large trucks constitute only four percent of all vehicles, yet account for 11 percent of all crash fatalities. In 2004, more than 5,000 people died in crashes involving big rigs; three-quarters of the deaths were occupants of the other vehicles in the collisions.

When the Numbers Hit Home

While the statistics on distracted, sleepy and inattentive truck drivers can be shocking, they are much more than numbers. They tell just a small part of the story of a tragic death or painful injury.

If you or your family has been hurt by a distracted truck driver, speak with a Los Angeles personal injury attorney who understands the law and knows how to fight successfully for full and fair compensation for medical bills, lost income and pain and suffering. Contact a personal injury lawyer for an assessment of the facts in your case.