Independent research from multiple organizations has shed light on the dangers of distracted driving – specifically, due to cell phones. Based on this research and the growing issue of distracted driving accidents among truckers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has outright banned commercial truck drivers from holding a cell phone in their hands at any time while driving. In addition, several states, including New York, have their own strict laws on cell phone use. Despite these regulations and the ever-present danger of distracted driving, truck drivers can still skirt the rules and put everyone on the road at risk.
Federal and State Cell Phone Laws
On a broad scale, all drivers in the state of New York are banned from using a cell phone or electronic device while driving, according to the New York State Police. The department notes that driver inattentiveness and distractions are a growing cause of vehicle collisions involving property damage and serious injuries: over 80,000 injuries in a single recent year. This law has been in place since 2001 and can lead to a $200 fine and an infraction. New York also abides by all federal restrictions on cell phone use among motor carriers, including banning trucking companies from requiring or allowing drivers to use cell phones while driving.
On a federal level, since 2011, the FMCSA has had a strict ban on cell phone use among commercial drivers, including bus operators, truck drivers, and drivers for other major industries. Truck drivers may only use cell phones in hands-free mode and through Bluetooth devices. The act of holding a cell phone in a hand while driving can lead to a federal violation from the FMCSA. For a single violation, a driver can be fined $2,750, and multiple violations can lead to his disqualification from driving commercially.
Is Distracted Driving Still an Issue?
Despite these restrictions, cell phone use among drivers is still incredibly common on New York roads. In a recent year, the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Commission stated that 9,700 tickets were issued under the cell phone law, but also noted that cell phone use is widely underreported and that the issue may be far worse than it currently appears. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that distracted driving contributed to 8% of fatal accidents and 15% of accidents involving a reported injury across the United States. While these reports combine both passenger and commercial vehicle accident statistics, they do provide a broad scope about this issue.
Among truckers, cell phone use is still one the leading causes of fatal accidents. According to the FMCSA, in a recent year, an estimated 32% of fatal truck accidents were caused by driver error, with distracted driving being reported as the second leading cause, just behind speeding. While the report notes that this includes 5% of all fatal truck accidents and that those numbers have decreased over a three-year period, it is important to remember that cell phone use traditionally goes underreported and it may make up a larger percentage of fatal accidents.
Why Is Checking a Smartphone So Dangerous?
Taking your eyes off the road, even for a second, can easily lead to a serious, and sometimes fatal, accident. This is especially true for truck drivers, who need to maintain large, heavy vehicles while traveling hundreds of miles in a single day. Drives should always focus on maintaining their speed, staying in their lane, and responding to dangerous road conditions. If a trucker tries to read a text message while coming up on a sharp turn, he may lose control of his vehicle and cause a collision.
If a distracted truck driver caused your injuries, it is important to remember you may be able to file a claim against him for compensation. New York is a no-fault state, meaning you can file a claim with your own insurance company to recover compensation, but that does not bar you from filing a claim against a negligent truck driver.
Truck accidents are rarely ever minor. If you suffered a serious injury, you may need extensive medical treatment and long-term care to recover. That may go far beyond the limits of your own insurance policy, but you may be covered under the truck driver’s liability policy, which likely has a higher limit.
But getting the compensation you need to recover is no easy task. An accident with a truck driver means dealing with their insurance company, which has a team of lawyers prepared to investigate your claim and minimize the amount of money the company has to pay you. To successfully get the compensation you deserve, you need to work with your own team of experienced attorneys.
At Wingate, Russotti, Shapiro & Halperin, LLP, our New York truck accident attorneys are well prepared to take on your case. We have more than 50 years of experience representing accident victims and can utilize all of our expertise to advocate on your behalf. With us at your side, you can focus on healing while we focus on handling all the legal legwork of winning you compensation. To discuss your case in further detail, call our office at (212) 986-7353 and schedule a free consultation.