The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has just released a report that shows the dangers of distraction and sleepiness on our roads.
More than one fourth of all 18-wheeler accidents are caused by driver inattention or fatigue. This is just what’s reported. Based on what I’ve seen as a personal injury lawyer, I believe the number is much higher.
I am filing suit on behalf of a woman who was seriously injured when a distracted tractor trailer driver shown here crashed into her vehicle and killed her boyfriend as they were at a complete stop on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth.
Several years ago, I represented the family of a young tow truck operator who was tragically killed when an 18 wheeler driver fell asleep at the wheel and veered off of I-35 north of Dallas-Fort Worth and crashed into another tractor trailer he was underneath.
In June, three people were killed on I-30 in Royse City in East Texas when a tractor-trailer veered into the path of another tractor-trailer. The eastbound travelling rig dragged a small car with it as it jumped the center median into oncoming traffic. The driver fell asleep at the wheel.
Express Your Support of these New Safety Guidelines
NHTSA has just proposed new guidelines to collect more accurate data and to administer a more effective safety program in each state.
Information is often missing in many crash reports as to the driver’s state, or may never really be known if the driver died or doesn’t disclose his inattention during an investigation that could affect whether he keeps his job.
Of course, documented incidents of distraction and fatigue are only the tip of the iceberg. The problem is much bigger than reports show.
The NHTSA guidelines suggest states pass legislation and enforce laws that
- Prohibit the use of electronic devices while engaged in business-related driving, including commercial and personal vehicles
- Prevent work-related drowsy driving in both commercial and personal vehicles, including developing better shift-change strategies that allow drivers to get adequate sleep
These are great recommendations that need to be implemented.
You can comment on the guidelines here until September 22.
Even sending a short message that says, “I support these guidelines,” will let our lawmakers know we want these badly needed rules to keep us safer on our highways.
Recommended Texting While Driving Laws
To stop distracted driving, the guidelines suggest that states, at a minimum, pass legislation that
- Prohibits a commercial vehicle driver from talking, dialing, browsing, texting or otherwise using an electronic device while operating a truck;
- Applies the texting ban to when the driver is stopped in an active traffic lane, such as a traffic jam or behind an accident;
- Makes the anti-texting laws a primary offense, meaning the driver can be cited even if he has not violated any other traffic code; and
- Sets minimum fines for violating the law.
Recommended Fatigued Driving Laws
To prevent drowsy driving, the guidelines suggest states pass appropriate legislation. As an alternative, states should consider upping enforcement efforts of existing laws to identify and stop drowsy drivers.
For example, laws governing reckless driving, weaving in and out of traffic and sudden lane changes are already on the books. These actions are also signs of a sleep-deprived driver. A police officer can stop and cite the driver for the conduct that arises from sleep deprivation.
We Know the Problem. Now Let’s Do Something About it.
Fatigued and distracted driver cases happen more often than you think. Just a couple of months earlier in North Texas, a truck driver fell asleep at the wheel. He woke while veering off the road and overcorrected, fatally steering his 18 wheeler into another car.
For every case that ends in tragedy, there are thousands more near misses and non-fatal wrecks.
Distraction and drowsiness are top factors in 18-wheeler crashes. I hear this from my my clients injured by them.
It’s time we do something about it.