New Jersey truck accidents: When truckers are distracted

Tractor trailers play an important role in Bergen County, bringing food, clothing and other life-sustaining supplies. The New Jersey State Police reported that 30 fatal crashes involved tractor trailers in 2011. It is the responsibility of truck drivers to stay focused on what they are doing, but a number of recent truck accidents has raised concern that too many of these big rig operators are allowing themselves to get distracted.

Distraction and truckers do not mix

In Maryland, a truck driver was charged with several traffic violations after hitting two cars on a bay bridge. The Baltimore Sun reported that the man told authorities he was distracted by something in his rear-view mirror. Apparently, he didn't notice that the vehicles in front of him had slowed down to about 4 mph. He hit the first car while traveling between 47 and 51 mph, pushing the car over the edge of the bridge and into the bay, before hitting the second vehicle. Two people were injured in the collision.

Distraction was cited in a fatal crash that took place in Arizona, according to The Huffington Post. A truck driver was using his cell phone while traveling at 65 mph. Records showed that he was looking at pictures of women and checking Facebook before he hit a group of emergency vehicles. The collision resulted in the death of a police officer.

Commercial distraction study

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration released a report in 2009 that was centered on previous studies conducted on distraction among commercial drivers. In the report, the FMCSA made several recommendations and these include:

  • Panel instruments should be redesigned to reduce the amount of time that drivers look away from the road.
  • Better policies relating to in-vehicle devices should be developed by fleet safety managers.
  • Maps should not be used by drivers while driving.
  • Drivers need more education from fleet safety managers on the risks of distraction.
  • Fleet safety managers need to be more aware of what drivers are bringing with them into their vehicles.

In 2010 the FMCSA issued a ban on texting and driving to bus drivers and truckers, according to distraction.gov. The use of a hand-held cell phone while driving was added to the ban in 2011.

The risks of distraction

Driver distraction is a large concern for the FMSCA and the organization seeks to educate drivers on the risks associated with these behaviors. In addition to cell phones, commercial drivers should avoid smoking, eating, drinking, fixating on external objects, reading and any type of action that takes their attention off of the task of driving.

When truckers engage in these types of behaviors, they can cause accidents that result in serious injury or death. Victims of such collisions should talk with an experienced attorney about their situation.