Hands-Free Systems Can Still Distract Truck Drivers
As cell phones—and then smartphones—became ubiquitous in the United States, experts and authorities quickly realized the prevalence of drivers using their devices while driving, as well as the associated risks of this behavior. Looking down to read or send a text message on the highway can result in a driver looking away from the road for the length of a football field. Obviously, such highly distracting behaviors presented a grave risk of crashes and injuries, and states began passing laws banning text messaging and driving or even using handheld devices at all.
Auto companies quickly responded with new technologies in their vehicles that allow drivers to make calls, send or read messages, and complete other tasks on their phones without taking their hands off the wheel. This hands-free technology is available in almost every type of new motor vehicle—and the trucking industry is no different.
Restrictions for Truck Drivers
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) estimates that commercial drivers who text while operating large trucks are 23.2 times more likely to deviate from their lanes, almost crash, or actually crash. For this reason, the agency issued specific regulations banning texting and largely the use of handheld devices for all commercial drivers. Drivers cannot read any text from a mobile device or type any text—for any type of message—into a mobile device. If they are making voice calls, drivers must dial the number by pushing one button or touching the screen once. Any further navigation on a smartphone would constitute a violation of the regulations.
Truck drivers travel long distances each day, often on monotonous highways. Many people call home to talk to loved ones as a form of entertainment on the road. To allow such calls while complying with the law, many trucks are equipped with hands-free technologies that allow truck drivers to use their voices to call and text while driving.
The Risks of Trusting Hands-Free Technologies
When hands-free technology in cars was first introduced, companies claimed it was the safe alternative to use handheld devices while driving. Now, drivers could do all the things they wanted on their smartphones without any distractions! Not surprisingly, such claims were quickly challenged and debunked.
The National Safety Council plainly states that “hands-free is not risk-free.” Many other traffic and safety organizations have come out with similar opinions. Many people find that hands-free systems are just as distracting as using handheld devices for both regular drivers and truck drivers.
The three types of driving distractions include:
- Visual – looking at something other than the road
- Manual – using your hands for something other than steering
- Cognitive – focusing your mind on something other than driving
Hands-free technology eliminates manual distraction. After all, it’s called “hands-free,” so it does not require you to remove your hands from the steering wheel to use the technology.
In addition, many people suggest that hands-free systems eliminate visual distractions. However, drivers using Bluetooth systems still continue to look at the screens in their vehicle when they voice-text. Anyone who has sent a voice-dictated text knows that it is not always the most accurate technology. Therefore, drivers are often checking to see if their voice texts have translated correctly. Hands-free systems also have many additional functions that may cause drivers to look at the screens, including GPS services, playing podcasts, and more. That hands-free systems eliminate visual distractions is highly questionable.
Finally, hands-free technology does almost nothing to alleviate cognitive distractions. Listening to someone talk or responding takes mental energy—mental energy a driver is not focusing on the road. Dictating and listening to text messages also requires significant focus, which means a driver’s full attention is not on the task of driving. Mental distractions are just as dangerous as visual or manual ones. Therefore, these systems—while not technically violating any current laws or trucking regulations—still cause distractions for truck drivers while they are behind the wheels of 80,000-pound vehicles.
Perhaps the biggest risk of hands-free systems is that they give truck drivers a false sense of security. Commercial drivers may believe that they are completely safe when they talk on the phone or send messages via Bluetooth—when in reality, they are highly mentally distracted. This can cause truck drivers to let their guards down, and open the door for them to make grave errors on the road.
Representing Victims of Distracted Truck Drivers
The experienced legal team at the Dolman Law Group understands that hidden distractions can cause truck accidents. We know that using hands-free technologies can distract truck drivers to the point that they can crash into other vehicles. For this reason, if we suspect that a distracted truck driver caused your accident, we will always thoroughly investigate the possibility that they were using a hands-free cell phone or infotainment system.
This information is not always easy to obtain, however, because trucking companies are less than willing to turn over information that may indicate liability on the truck driver’s part. Fortunately, we have strategies and tools to obtain the evidence we need to prove negligence in your truck accident case and prove that you deserve full compensation for your losses.
Discuss Your Rights as a Truck Accident Victims With Our Attorneys Today
Proving negligence in a distracted driving truck accident case is often challenging—and you need the right legal team standing behind you. While you work on physical recovery, we will work to recover financial compensation for you. Compensation will never take away your injuries, but it can assist you and your family in moving forward, covering your expenses, and feeling a sense of justice.
Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765