An experiment by a Connecticut television station designed to highlight the problem of distracted driving among truck drivers turned up a wealth of disturbing evidence.
NBC Connecticut.com set up cameras on three major interstate highways “over the course of several months looking for distracted drivers behind the wheels of big rigs… it didn’t take long for us to find several drivers of tractor-trailers who appeared to be either talking or texting while driving.” Like Oregon, Connecticut has a comprehensive distracted driving law that bans the use of cellphones without a hands-free device and bans texting by drivers in all circumstances.
The article goes on to quote a spokesman for Connecticut’s Motor Transport Association asserting that the trucking industry has always advocated “tougher laws and better training to stop distracted driving,” as NBC Connecticut puts it. The TV station’s findings, however, highlight the importance of enforcement mechanisms to prevent distractive driving. Specifically, other states need to do what Oregon did several years ago and close loopholes that allow truck drivers and others involved in serious accidents to avoid distracted driving responsibility by claiming that their phone calls were “work-related.”
According to NBC Connecticut “in 2012, more than 421,000 people were injured and 3,328 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers across the country. Semi-truck accidents are among the most serious and often deadly crashes on our roads, and distracted driving remains a significant factor in far too many truck accidents here in Oregon, Washington and nationwide. Proof of this can be found in a Virginia Tech study cited by NBC Connecticut which found that “talking and dialing at the wheel increase the likelihood of what they call ‘safety critical events’” by a factor of more than 23 and that, among such events, “texting is by far the biggest threat.”
As an Oregon and Washington distracted driving attorney with a particular interest in semi-truck accidents the report from Connecticut only reinforces what I have known for a long time. For all the attention that has been paid to distracted driving over the last few years the problem remains a significant one. Tougher laws do little good unless they are accompanied by robust enforcement and penalties strong enough to make people, whether in trucks or cars, think twice before picking up a phone or sending a text.
NBC Connecticut.com: Tracking distracted drivers behind the wheels of big rigs