Accident Study: Trucking Crashes Happen 23-times More Often when Driver is Texting

A recent study had some interesting findings about tractor-trailer operators, traffic accidents and cell phone texting habits. Because our firm, Lebowitz-Mzhen, LLC handles a large number of trucking accident injury cases, we were not surprised to learn that the chance for truck drivers to be involved in a highway collision is directly proportional to whether they are texting on their cell phone while operating a big rig.

According to the report, on released from a new study this week report that texting while driving increases the chance that a truck driver will be involved in a traffic accident or near-accident by 23 times. Researches from Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute looked at commercial trucking information from two studies — one in 2003 and the other in 2007. More than two hundred truck drivers who drove over three million miles took part in the study. The institute looked at 4,452 events considered “safety-critical,” including 197 near accidents and 21 truck crashes.

Video cameras were used to record event in the cabs of the trucks during the study. Those cameras shot footage of truck drivers’ facial reactions in the final seconds right before a near miss truck crash or an actual truck accident. The footage showed that the main reason texting while driving is so dangerous for truck drivers is that they have to take their eyes off the road.

A representative for the institute’s Center for Truck and Bus Safety, Rich Hanowski, said that taking one’s eyes off the road when driving for more than two seconds constitutes a dangerous situation. Yet in the last six seconds just prior to these truck accidents and near collisions, a number of the truckers spent an average of 4.6 seconds with their eyes on their communication device rather than the road. In that length of time, a truck moving at 55mph will have traveled more than the length of a football field.

Hanowski reminded that texting while driving isn’t just a dangerous pastime for truck drivers, it’s a risky behavior for any driver, including passenger cars, SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans. While Maryland law will make it illegal for motorists to text while driving starting in October 2009, legislation this isn’t always enough to get drivers to stop texting while driving. Yet the consequences can be catastrophic, such as when a large tractor-trailer ends up slamming into a small passenger car because a trucker was busy checking messages.

Texting and Driving Don’t Mix, WashingtonPost.com, July 29, 2009

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