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Study: Trucker distraction and fatigue continue to cause crashes

It’s important to residents of Plantation and surrounding communities that truck drivers behind the steering wheels of tractor-trailers pay attention to the traffic and the weather as they roll on interstates, highways and streets in our area. As regular readers of our legal blog know, distracted drivers of passenger vehicles are a threat to other motorists, but the threat is never greater than when the distracted driver is sitting in the cab of an 80,000-pound commercial vehicle that can cause severe injuries and fatalities in a truck crash.

A new study of trucker distraction and fatigue shows that common activities engaged in by truck drivers, such as adjusting the instrument panel, seatbelt or mirrors or reaching for food or a drink significantly increases the risk of a wreck or near-wreck.

Positive phone info

Some good news in the study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) is that there has been an overall decrease in phone use by truckers.

In fact, VTTI researchers found that “hands-free cellphone use was found to be protective as it likely helps drivers alleviate boredom.” That’s not the case with hand-held phones, however. Their usage “was found to be risky as it takes the driver’s attention away from driving tasks.”

It’s obviously better for all concerned when a trucker navigating I-595 or I-75 is focused on driving rather than their phone.

Crunching big numbers

Researchers pored through data collected from seven fleets that drove more than 3.8 million miles. The study included 172 truckers, 182 large trucks, 43 motorcoaches and 73 motorcoach drivers.

The authors of the study noted that previous research of crash databases found that driver distraction is a primary contributing factor in approximately 25 percent to 30 percent of crashes. However, VTTI researchers said that their more finely tuned researched methods determined that “that the actual percentage of distraction-related crashes may be substantially higher.”

Truckers’ most dangerous hour

The study also says that truckers “the eighth driving hour showed the highest rate of safety-critical event occurrence.”

It should be noted that a “critical event” is defined as one of these four: a wreck, near-wreck, wreck-relevant conflict or unintentional lane deviation.

Early risks

The research also revealed that trucker fatigue is highest from 1 am to 6 am. Unfortunately, that fact coincides with this one: most truckers begin long shifts in the very early morning hours.

For crash injury victims, the aftermath of a truck wreck can be long and difficult. Trying to deal at the same time with legal issues can be overwhelming. But if you want to achieve a positive outcome in a personal injury claim, it’s imperative that you or someone on your side who is experienced at navigating the legal process.