A settlement totaling $3.75 million was awarded to a couple who was hit from behind by a truck driver who apparently was on the phone when the accident occurred, according to the Post and Courier. The couple was represented by a Charleston, South Carolina firm.
The truck driver even made up a far-fetched story that said that the couple didn’t have their lights on and came to a complete stop while turning. He also first lied about using his cell phone while driving.
The black box recording showed that this was not true — the couple had their headlights on and was traveling at a normal rate of about 10 mph while turning into the driveway, and he was using his phone while driving.
The North Carolina-based manufacturing company Unifi Inc. before this accident had previously required the truck drivers to use Bluetooth technology in order to make driving safer.
The company Unifi also had a policy that truck drivers may not use their cell phone for more than two minutes at a time.
Even though they had the rules, the company apparently did not enforce them, according to the article.
The driver in the incident was on the phone for seven hours out of the eight-and-a-half hour driving shift, according to cell phone logs.
After the accident and settlement, Unifi Inc. banned all cell phone use by any truck drivers.
The hope is that other companies will implement the same rule for their truck drivers with completely banning cellphone use while driving.
The research shows that distracted driving occurs even when talking on a Bluetooth device, because it’s the conversation itself that is the problem, not necessarily the hands being occupied, though that’s a problem as well.
The lawyer that represented the couple said the drivers were engaging in dangerous behaviors, such as talking on the phone for hours and making three-way calls.
That lawyer says that some companies already ban cellphone use, some even installing cameras to enforce the rules. He is hoping that more companies follow suit.
Every year, about 421,000 people are injured in crashes that involved a distracted driver. More than 78 percent of all distracted drivers were distracted because they were texting and driving. In 2013, about one in five crashes where someone was injured involved a distracted driver. That number increased ten percent from 2011.
Distracted driving is a societal problem that needs to be regulated and fixed. The solution may not be easy, but it is necessary. The very technology that is supposed to make life easier, to help us stay more connected, can cause problems like this where people end up getting hurt.
Hopefully this lawsuit involving the Bennettsville, SC couple will put pressure on other companies to ban cellphone use.
Texting while driving is particularly dangerous. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outline three kinds of distractions that can occur while driving:
- Visual, meaning taking your eyes off of the road
- Manual, meaning taking your hands off of the steering wheel
- Cognitive, taking your mind off of driving, like the mental distraction of having a conversation
Texting while driving is particularly dangerous because it involves all three of these kinds of distractions.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration allows drivers to use only a hands-free device located within close proximity. Using a handheld telephone consists of using at least one hand to operate the device. Dialing consists of pressing more than a single button to call someone. Reaching for a device involves maneuvering so that the driver is no longer in a seated, driving position. The rules restrict drivers from holding their phones, or pressing more than a single button to dial.
The administration’s research shows that commercial motor vehicle drivers who are dialing are at a six times greater risk of being in a safety-critical event (crash, near crash, or lane deviation.) Drivers who engage in dialing take their eyes off the road for an average of 3.8 seconds. Att 55 mph, this time equates to about the length of a football field with eyes off the road.