Our Chicago truck accident attorneys have often explored the dangers of distracted driving. But distracted driving is not confined to the drivers of cars. It turns out that truckdrivers, who carry the awesome responsibility of driving machines capable of killing large numbers of people when mishandled, have been engaging in distracted driving, as well.
This Fall, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration finally began to take action on distracted truckdriving. The FMCSA is close to issuing a rule banning texting while driving a truck. The rule should be finalized this fall. While we applaud the FMCSA for taking this action, our trucking accident attorneys are concerned that such a rule is necessary. How anyone driving a large commercial tractor-trailer truck could think it is acceptable to text while doing so is unfathomable. The fact is: distracted truckdrivers cause catastrophic motor vehicle accidents.
The FMCSA is also getting ready to propose a rule regarding cellphone use by truckdrivers, or at least certain commercial motor vehicle operators working in interstate commerce. Again, while our truck accident attorneys are pleased to see the agency stepping up and exercising its rulemaking authority on this issue, the fact that it is required is highly troubling. Moreover, the dangers of using cellphones while driving have been well known for years. It is well past the time when governmental action on this issue was due.
Moreover, the proposed penalties for violating these rules are laughably low. Texting while driving is perhaps the single most dangerous thing a driver can do – arguably even more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol. Yet the FMCSA’s proposed penalty for truck and bus drivers who violate the texting ban is a mere $2,750. This “slap-on-the-wrist” penalty sends the clear message that the FMCSA still is not taking seriously the risks and possible consequences of distracted trucking. Our Chicago truck accident lawyers doubt that such a low fine will have any meaningful effect on the behavior of drivers.
Next, the FMCSA will turn its attention to other distractions within the cab of large trucks. The agency will consider such distractions as CB radios and dispatch systems, and attempt to come up with a rule that preserves truck drivers’ ability to communicate and receive necessary information, while still ensuring the safety of other motorists on the roads. The problem is currently under study and consideration by the agency’s Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee, which will report on the results of its study in August.
With the federal regulators so slow to act, and so lenient when they do, motorists must rely on the general laws of each state to keep them safe. However, only twenty-eight states currently ban texting while driving, and these are general laws, not anything specifically applicable to truck or bus drivers. Moreover, the penalties for violating these state laws are all far lower than even the already inadequate $2,750 proposed for violating the new federal rule.
It is likely that the only effective check on distracted truckdriving will be lawsuits brought by those who are injured by the practice. Sadly, this means that innocent people must be injured or killed by distracted truckdrivers – and take action against those negligent drivers – before other truck drivers will be frightened into putting down their own smartphones.
That is why it is so important that those injured in trucking accidents fully investigate the causes of the accident, and take legal action if negligence was to blame. The more victims stand up for themselves, the sooner the industry and its drivers will be scared into adopting safe practices on distracted truckdriving and other problem issues. If you were injured in a trucking accident, an experienced truck accident lawyer can help you get to the bottom of what happened in your case, and help you decide whether you should take action, and against whom.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago truck accident attorney at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.