Distracted and otherwise unfit truckers pose a serious threat in CT

Many people in South Windsor know that sharing the road with large trucks comes with certain risks. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, large trucks weigh up to 30 times what passenger cars do, require more distance to stop and are prone to problems such as rollovers. These factors make driving near trucks dangerous even when truck drivers are focused and competent. When these drivers are inattentive or undertrained, the risk of serious truck accidents is even greater.

Driver unlicensed, inadequately prepared

This issue was recently called to attention when a truck hit an overpass on the state line between New York and Connecticut. According to The Connecticut Post, the truck then spilled the liquefied margarine that it was carrying over parts of the road and caught on fire. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Investigators found that the driver did not have a valid license at the time of the accident, which suggests questionable practices on the part of the trucking company. Furthermore, the driver was using an application on his cellphone to navigate, rather than a GPS device designed for commercial use, which is why he took a route under a low overpass that his truck could not clear. Safety experts note that the driver's cellphone use was also dangerously distracting.

Inadequate training and improper equipment use among truck drivers both can raise the risk of accidents, but these issues may not be the most prevalent threats to other motorists. Distraction among truck drivers, on the other hand, may be an impactful and widespread problem, according to both national research and local investigations.

Dangerously distracted truck drivers

Earlier this year, journalists from NBC Connecticut conducted observations of truck drivers on major state roads, including interstates 95, 91 and 84. They observed several drivers apparently talking or texting on cellphones, despite state laws banning both behaviors and despite Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations banning texting and curtailing handheld phone use.

These findings are alarming, since the FMCSA states that truck drivers who use handheld cellphones are six times more likely to experience a safety critical event, which is defined as an accident, near-crash or other dangerous situation. Texting increases the risk of such an event more than 23 times.

NBC Connecticut also found that law enforcement authorities may have trouble effectively ticketing truck drivers for these risky distracted driving behaviors, since authorities cannot easily see up into the truck cab to tell what a driver is doing. Although 640 tickets were issued in Connecticut between July 2013 and July 2014, the number of truckers who were driving distracted during that time may have been much higher.

Toll of truck accidents

The IIHS states that, per mile traveled, large trucks have lower average crash rates than other vehicles. However, when accidents occur, other road users often suffer the most. The IIHS states that in 82 percent of large truck fatalities that occurred in 2012, the victims were people other than the truck occupant.

When a truck driver's actions or a trucking company's policies contribute to an unnecessary injury or death, victims or their surviving family members may be able to seek compensation from the negligent party. Anyone who has been hurt or lost a loved one in a large truck accident should consider meeting with an attorney to discuss the circumstances of the accident.