Distracted driving, an overlooked threat among truckers

Distracted driving is on the rise throughout West Virginia and across the U.S., but it's a threat that many trucking companies are ignoring. Truckers are especially prone to distracted driving not only because of increased smartphone use but also because of a "productivity culture" that forces them to stay awake longer. Texting and fatigue are frequently behind trucking accidents.

Experts say that texting constitutes a visual, manual and cognitive distraction. It can take a driver's eyes off the road for up to five seconds, which means that one driving at 55 mph could travel the entire length of a football field without once looking up from the phone. Inattentive driving leads to truckers swerving or drifting into other lanes and compromises reaction times.

Though federal guidelines are in place that require truckers to take a certain number of rest breaks, truckers often drive drowsy. Sleeping 5.5 to 6.4 hours in the previous 24 hours will double the risk for fatigue compared to sleeping one or two extra hours.

Safety advocates say that fleet owners should therefore aim to create a safety-oriented culture among their employees. It could begin with policy changes. Owners can then help employees identify risk factors in their own driving and establish sustainable goals, using exposure rather than injuries as the measurement of improvement.

If drowsy driving or texting and driving is to blame for a truck accident, a victim can rest assured that they will have good grounds for a claim. However, they may need experts to gather the proof, including the police report and the trucker's work log or phone records. This is where a lawyer and their network of professionals can come in. The lawyer can negotiate on a victim's behalf for a settlement that covers all losses, such as medical bills, lost wages and vehicle damage.

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