According to the U.S. Department of Transportation statistics, 33,808 people died in traffic accidents in 2009, the lowest number since 1950. It also represents nearly a 10 percent decline from 2008 levels. The number of fatal accidents involving large trucks also declined in 2009, dropping 26 percent from 2008 levels from 682 to 503.
The number of deaths related to distracted driving also appear to have declined, down from nearly 6,000 in 2008 to 5,474 in 2009 according to the USDOT. An additional 448,000 people were injured in distracted driving accidents. But despite the decline in number, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood refers to distracted driving as an “epidemic.” LaHood also cites problems with classifying distracted driving accidents as one of the main reasons behind the decline.
In an effort to combat distracted driving deaths involving commercial truck drivers, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed a new rule relating to hand-held mobile devices in December.
FMCSA Proposed RuleAccording to the FMCSA news release, the new rule would “prohibit commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle.” Drivers who violate the rule face civil fines, and possible disqualification or suspension of their commercial driver’s license. Carriers that allow drivers to violate the rule would also face heavy fines.
The FMCSA says that the rule is necessary because using hand-held devices requires the driver to engage is several risky behaviors. Simply the act of reaching for an object puts a driver six times more likely to be involved in a “safety critical event.”
The American Trucking Association recently announced its support of the ban. According to the Commercial Carrier Journal, the ATA is also requesting that the FMCSA allow the use of hands-free technologies, citing research which says those devices have a net safety benefit. As a result, the ATA cites the need for drivers to push a limited number of buttons to engage hands-free technology and is pressing the FMCSA for limited exceptions.
After an AccidentDespite efforts of federal agencies, carriers and individual drivers, accidents involving large trucks still occur. Due to the disparity in size and weight the accidents usually involve significant and sometimes fatal injuries. The cases can also be complex and involve sources of evidence that can quickly disappear. For those who have been injured in an accident with a semi-truck or 18-wheeler, it is important to work with an experienced personal injury attorney. Call us today at (405) 703-4567.