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Increased Enforcement & Stiff Penalties Fail to Curb Texting by Truckers

January 11, 2016

The perils of distracted driving are a topic that our Atlanta Truck Accident Lawyers have addressed in prior blog articles. Despite a growing awareness of the unacceptable nature of multi-tasking while driving, many motorists cannot resist the temptation to reach for a drink, turn to discipline a child, adjust the radio, or text on a cell phone. When any driver divides his or her attention between the road ahead and other tasks, the probability of a serious collision rises significantly. Most tractor truck drivers are safe and law-abiding. However, the magnitude of the risk associated with distracted driving is even higher when the vehicle is an 80,000 pound fully loaded tractor-trailer.

A tragic fatal trucking accident in Southeast Georgia that occurred relatively recently provides a sad reminder of the devastating consequences when truck drivers fail to obey industry regulations regarding multi-tasking. Five nursing students were killed in a trucking accident near Savannah when a big-rig smashed into stop-and-go traffic without even slowing down, according to an AP report. Two passenger vehicles were crushed during the crash as the SUV steamrolled over a small passenger vehicle which subsequently caught on fire. The large semi-truck never stopped until it collided with the back of a tanker truck. Georgia Highway Patrol officials reported that in addition to killing the 5 nursing students, the crash caused three more injuries and damage to seven vehicles.

There is also reason to suspect the truck driver might have been distracted. The weather conditions were perfect according to the officers at the scene, but traffic was heavy and flowing with a stop-and-go pattern. The failure of the truck driver to engage his brakes suggests that he might not have been paying attention to the stopped traffic in front of his vehicle. The prospect of a forty ton vehicle barreling down the road in heavy traffic when the driver is not watching the road is certainly a disturbing image.

A recent WIVB-2 Buffalo news story recently disclosed that the number of tickets issued to truck drivers that use a cell phone to text or make handheld calls has increased, but this trend has not sufficiently discouraged this dangerous driving practice. In 2011, New York law enforcement authorities issued 92 tickets to truckers who were texting and driving. Reportedly, this number increased by a factor of almost eight times (787) in 2013.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has banned texting and driving by commercial drivers because the practice is considered the most dangerous form of distracted driving. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute that was cited in the WIVB-2 report found that texting behind the wheel increases the risk of a crash by 23 times. The researchers also found that texting results in the driver's eyes being diverted from the road for approximately six seconds. During this six second interval, a tractor-trailer traveling at a speed of 55 mph can cover the length of a football field.

Although enforcement of cell phone-related distracted driving laws appears to be on the rise, steep civil penalties still have not eradicated this driving behavior. A texting driver is subject to a civil penalty of up to $2,700 for each offense while the commercial carrier must pay a fine up to $11,000. If you or your loved one has been injured or you have lost someone you love in a trucking accident, our experienced Atlanta Trucking Accident Attorneys explain our clients' rights while pursuing the fullest financial recovery.

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Category: Truck Accidents

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Many of our blog articles discuss the law. All information provided about the law is very general in nature and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Every situation is different, and should be analyzed by a lawyer who can provide individualized advice based on the facts involved in your unique situation, and a consideration of all of the nuances of the statutes and case law that apply at the time.