In recent years, fatalities involving large trucks have fallen slowly, despite many safety advances like airbags and antilock brakes. Ten people were injured near Dallas late last year in a chain-reaction accident involving a semi-truck and six other vehicles. A Budweiser tractor-trailer had been traveling eastbound on I-20 when it swerved out of the eastbound lanes and through the cables separating the eastbound and westbound lanes. This caused an SUV traveling eastbound next to the tractor-trailer to follow the big rig into westbound traffic where they collided with five other vehicles. The Budweiser semi-truck jack-knifed in the westbound lanes as a result of the wreck and caused the other vehicles to crash into it. The interstate was shut down for nearly three hours and 10 people were sent to area hospitals. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, large trucks were involved in 4066 fatal crashes in 2008. This figure represents 11 percent of all driving-related fatalities for that year. Nearly a quarter of drivers of large trucks involved in fatal crashes had at least one prior speeding conviction. Texas had the highest number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes in 2008. There were 421 large trucks involved in fatal accidents in Texas, which represented over 10 percent of the nation’s total. A recent poll by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 35 percent of drivers considered the roads less safe than they did five years ago. According to the foundation, this drop in confidence was largely due to the increase in behind-the-wheel multitasking. The Austin City Council passed an ordinance in October that makes it illegal to view, send, or compose electronic messages while driving an automobile. The ordinance defines electronic messages as any text-based communication, command or request to access an Internet site. The new law takes effect on January 1, 2010. Each violation will be a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $500 and can be appealed in Municipal Court. Penalties could increase if a violator is caught engaging in another dangerous driving behavior, such as speeding. Drivers will still be permitted to text when their vehicle is stopped. A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that semi-truck drivers who text while driving are 23 more times likely to crash than those who are not texting. The study found that drivers typically take their eyes off the road for nearly five seconds while texting. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 87 percent of people consider drivers engaged in texting or e-mailing to pose a serious safety threat. This is close to the number of people who consider drunken driving a threat. If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident involving a large truck, it is important to contact an experienced attorney to discuss your legal rights and options.
Truckers’ Safety-Belt Use Increases
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that 74% of commercial truck and bus drivers are now using their safety belts, up from 65% in 2007.
Almost 21,000 commercial drivers operating medium- to heavy-duty trucks and buses were observed at 827 roadside sites nationwide for the survey, FMCSA said.
Drivers for regional or national fleets showed higher safety belt use, at 78%, versus 64% for independent owner-operators.
The data showed that seatbelt use for both commercial drivers and their occupants was higher. at 78%, in states where law enforcement may stop drivers for not wearing a safety belt, versus 67% in states with weaker belt use laws.
“Safety belts save lives,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. “We applaud those who are buckling up, but we won’t rest until every commercial driver is using a safety belt.”
“Driving a 40-ton truck or a bus full of people is a big responsibility,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “Drivers owe it to themselves and others to wear a safety belt every time they get behind the wheel.”
Adults are just as likely to text while driving, the survey says.
WASHINGTON — Adults are just as likely as teens to have texted while driving and are substantially more likely to have talked on the phone while driving, a survey by The Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project revealed.
In addition, 49 percent of adults say they have been passengers in a car when the driver was sending or reading text messages on their cell phone.
Overall, 44 percent of adults say they have been passengers of drivers who used the cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger.
Beyond driving, some cell-toting pedestrians get so distracted while talking or texting that they have physically bumped into another person or an object.
These are some of the key findings from the survey:
Nearly half (47 percent) of all texting adults say they have sent or read a text message while driving. That compares with one in three (34 percent) texting teens ages 16-17 who said they had “texted while driving” in a September 2009 survey.1
Looking at the general population, this means that 27 percent of all American adults say they have sent or read text messages while driving. That compares with 26 percent of all American teens ages 16-17 who reported texting at the wheel in 2009.
Three in four (75 percent) cell-owning adults say they have talked on a cell phone while driving. Half (52 percent) of cell-owning teens ages 16-17 reported talking on a cell phone while driving in the 2009 survey.
Among all adults, that translates into 61 percent who have talked on a cell phone while driving. That compares with 43 percent of all American teens ages 16-17 who said they had talked on their phones while driving in the 2009 survey.
Half (49 percent) of all adults say they have been in a car when the driver was sending or reading text messages on their cell phone. The same number (48 percent) of all teens ages 12-17 said they had been in a car “when the driver was texting.”
44 percent of all adults say they have been in a car when the driver used the cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger. About the same number of teens (40 percent) said they had been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a dangerous way.
Beyond driving, one in six (17 percent) cell-owning adults say they have physically bumped into another person or an object because they were distracted by talking or texting on their phone. That amounts to 14 percent of all American adults who have been so engrossed in talking, texting or otherwise using their cell phones that they bumped into something or someone.
These new findings for those ages 18 and older come from a nationwide phone survey of 2,252 American adults (744 of the interviews were conducted on cell phones) conducted between April 29 and May 30. In that survey, 1,917 were cell owners, and 1,189 used text messaging. The margin of error in the full sample is two percentage points and, in the cell, the subpopulation is three percentage points.
The findings for teens are based on previously released data from a separate nationwide telephone survey conducted by Princeton Survey Research International between June 26 and September 24, 2009, among a sample of 800 teens ages 12-17 and a parent or guardian.