Driver distraction proves especially dangerous in crashes involving semi-trucks
Investigators with the Ontario Provincial Police believe distraction may have contributed to a recent crash involving three semi-trucks. According to the Toronto Sun, a big rig driver rear-ended another semi - pushing it into a third tractor trailer - as bumper-to-bumper traffic slowed in a construction area. The driver of the first truck sustained serious injuries and was airlifted to a local hospital. He is currently listed in critical condition.
"We're not yet sure if [the driver] was paying attention to the road or not," said Sergeant David Woodford of the Ontario Police. "But the other two trucks involved were stopped and he rear-ended them."
Effective January 3, 2012, federal law prohibits drivers of commercial trucks from using cell phones - including hands-free devices - while operating their vehicles. Passage of this law was prompted by a recommendation from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), following a terrible semi-truck crash in 2010. In that case, a tractor trailer crossed the median of a Kentucky highway and slammed into a 18 passenger church van head-on. Eleven people were killed, including the driver of the semi, who was apparently talking on his phone at the time of the crash. It was Kentucky's deadliest accident in 20 years. The Board argued that a ban would reduce distracted driving accidents and ultimately lower insurance costs for trucking and busing companies.
At the same time, the NTSB recommended a nationwide ban on cell phone use for all drivers in all vehicles, but the Board lacks the authority to enact such a ban itself. At present, 39 states, Washington D.C., and Guam have banned texting and driving. Meanwhile, 10 states, D.C., and the Virgin Islands ban all drivers from using cell phones in any capacity while they're behind the wheel. Missouri only has one distracted driving law, which prohibits texting for drivers under age 21.
In 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) banned truck drivers from sending and receiving text-messages while operating a commercial truck. Drivers busted for ignoring the ban potentially face fines of more than $2,700, according to CNN.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were nearly 3 million commercial truck drivers employed in 2008. Meanwhile, there were more than 3,300 people killed because of accidents that involved a large truck in the United States in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Nearly 75,000 people were injured in these accidents. Missouri witnessed nearly 100 large trucks involve themselves in fatal accidents during the same year.
NTSB: Trucker on phone at time of Ky. crash that killed 11 people (Associated Press, Fox News)
Drivers of CMVs: Restricting the Use of Cellular Phones (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration)Attorney meetings by appointment only