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San Antonio Personal Injury Law Blog

Truckers can use hands-free devices. Is that safe?

Truck drivers are not allowed to use cellphones while they drive, in an effort to cut back on distraction and reduce the amount of accidents they get involved in. Distracted driving is a risk for anyone, but the size and weight of a truck mean that one mistake can lead to significant injuries for others on the road.

However, the regulations do allow truck drivers to use hands-free devices. These have to be close at hand, and the drivers have to be able to push just one button to use them. This allows drivers to use these devices to communicate with coworkers for business purposes or to make personal calls behind the wheel.

Work-zone safety: Truck drivers create hazards

Truck drivers have a number of requirements they must meet to be behind the wheel. They must go through training and have a Commercial Driver's License. It's important for them to also understand the trucking regulations, which require them to rest regularly and avoid drinking on the job.

Truck drivers also need to know how to be safe in construction zones. All drivers have to slow down and be aware of their surroundings in these areas, especially because of the risk of hitting pedestrian workers. In the last five years, 4,400 people were killed in work-zone crashes, and another 200,000 were injured. Not all of these cases involved trucks, but many did.

Things you can do to prevent a car-truck accident

Operating a passenger vehicle in close proximity to a commercial truck is easier said than done. This is particularly true on busy highways in which there is a large concentration of these vehicles.

As a driver of a passenger vehicle, there are steps you can take to enhance your safety and prevent an accident with a commercial truck. Here are six things to do:

  • Avoid blind spots: Truckers have a difficult time seeing your vehicle when you're beside their truck or directly behind it. Do your best to make yourself visible at all times.
  • Be careful when changing lanes: Be sure to leave enough space when changing lanes in front of a truck, as these large vehicles are difficult to stop abruptly.
  • Never pass a truck on the right: You should never pass any type of vehicle in the right lane, and this definitely holds true of commercial trucks. If you're going to pass a truck, do so in the left lane.
  • Watch yourself when merging: It's not easy for a commercial truck to move out of your way when you're merging onto the highway. If necessary, slow down when merging until the truck drives by. This will give you more space to safely enter the highway.
  • Beware of the weather: For example, strong winds can knock a truck out of its lane of travel, thus increasing the chance of a collision. When the weather takes a turn for the worst, leave even more space between your vehicle and the many trucks on the road.
  • Pull as far off the road as possible: If you need to pull to the side of the road, leave as much space as you can between your vehicle and traffic. You don't want to risk a commercial truck striking your vehicle as it passes by.

Work-related strain on truck drivers can increase risks to others

Far too many people think of trucks as minefields on the road. In reality, the modern American economy depends on these massive vehicles. Transportation by train is no longer feasible in many areas, while air transportation of goods and materials is very expensive.

In order to keep retail merchandising and basic supplies affordable, road transportation is necessary. Commercial drivers help keep the American economy moving. However, their job is a stressful and demanding one. The strain caused by this job could result in mistakes that prove injurious or fatal to you or other people on the road.

There are many types of truck driver distractions

When sharing the road with large commercial trucks, you hope that every driver is paying close attention to the road and other vehicles. Unfortunately, just the same as other motorists, truckers can and will become distracted every now and again. When this happens there is a greater chance of an accident.

Here are some of the most common types of truck driver distractions:

  • Outside objects: It's not always things inside the truck that act as a distraction. Instead, it can be outside objects, such as people on the road or billboards, that cause a trucker to take his or her attention away from the task at hand.
  • Cellphone use: This is a big no-no among all motorists, including truck drivers. Any type of cellphone use, from texting to talking, can greatly increase the risk of an accident.
  • Dispatching device: It's nice to have instant communication with dispatchers, but using this device when driving can be just as dangerous as a cellphone. The use of a dispatching device can result in a person taking one's hands off the wheel and/or eyes off the road.
  • Reading paper maps: Even with advanced technology, there are still times when truckers rely on paper maps to get to where they're going. Reading one of these while driving is every bit as risky as texting. If using a paper map is required, it's best to stop the vehicle first.
  • Eating and drinking: Truckers spend a lot of time on the road, as they need to reach their destination in a timely manner. This often results in eating and drinking while driving. This sounds simple enough, but it means that the trucker will have to take at least one hand off the wheel.

How long does a semitruck need to stop?

You're sitting at a stoplight, staring at the car ahead of you, when you notice lights approaching in your rear-view mirror. You feel like they're getting closer far faster than they should be, and the vehicle is huge: An 80,000-pound semitruck.

Then you hear the screech of the brakes as the truck driver sees the stopped traffic and tries to slow down. You can't go anywhere, with the cars all around you, so you just watch those lights growing in the mirror, all the way until impact.

New electronic logs make it harder for truckers to drive fatigued

There are many contributing factors to fatal collisions between passenger vehicles and commercial trucks. Alcohol and drug consumption by either party, as well as distraction, can significantly increase the risk of a crash. Those risks are well-known, which is why federal law restricts trucks from texting while driving and most states, including Texas, have more strict blood alcohol limits for commercial drivers. One risk factor that often gets overlooked by the general population, however, is fatigued or exhausted driving.

Driving while tired can increase the time it takes to respond to changes in traffic or road situations. It can make it harder for a driver to focus on the task at hand. It can also even lead to someone falling asleep at the wheel, which puts everyone on the road at serious risk. When that driver has control of a massive commercial truck, tragedy could follow. That's why there are federal laws in place to limit how long commercial drivers can work.

When truckers drive tired, its puts other people in danger

Drunk driving and distracted driving are both serious risks to everyone on the road but they aren't the only serious concerns about safety when you're driving. There's also drowsy driving to worry about. When people get behind the wheel while tired, they put other people on the road at risk. When commercial drivers choose to continue driving when exhausted or fatigued, that risk factor increases.

People have the right to basic safety when driving, and that includes not sharing the road with people who create unnecessarily dangerous conditions. When commercial drivers choose to drive exhausted or drowsy and cause crashes, those who suffered injuries or lost a loved one should hold them accountable.

Highway hypnosis is a huge problem on the interstates

When you are on the road, you will likely expect that other drivers will be operating vehicles as safely as possible. This is true of many drivers, but some might be driving unsafely because of factors like fatigue or distractions.

Semitruck drivers on the roads are especially susceptible to fatigue-related issues. One of their concerns is "highway hypnosis." The term refers to an almost trance-like state drivers experience that can lead to fatal accidents. Here are some facts to know about highway hypnosis:

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San Antonio, TX 78201

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