So What’s the Big Deal About Texting and Driving? Okay, Maybe JUST Talking on the Cell Phone, Right?

Texting and driving seems to be fairly innocuous doesn’t it? I mean, what’s the big deal?

In 2010, The National Safety Council announced today that at least 28% of all traffic crashes – or at least 1.6 million crashes each year – involve drivers using cell phones and texting. NSC estimates that 1.4 million crashes each year involve drivers using cell phones and a minimum of 200,000 additional crashes each year involve drivers who are texting.

In 2011, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced a final rule specifically prohibiting interstate truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while operating their vehicles. Many of the largest truck and bus companies, such as UPS, Covenant Transport, Wal-Mart, Peter Pan and Greyhound already have company policies in place banning their drivers from using hand-held phones.

U.S. News and World Report covered a recent study by the National Safety Council. The study, conducted in partnership with Nationwide, shows that cell-phone-related car crashes are drastically under-reported, and that as many as 1 in 4 car crashes involve cell phone distraction. 

According to the NSC, the number of fatal vehicle crashes caused by driver distraction due to cell-phone usage could be much higher than many think – largely due to “coding errors” on the part of regulators. For example: Even when drivers admitted cell-phone use during a fatal crash, NSC’s analysis found that in almost half of such cases, the crash wasn’t coded in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatal Analysis Reporting System(FARS) to reflect the distracted usage of such devices.

One of the first questions asked of drivers and plaintiffs in trucking accidents is to identify their cell number and service provider. Then a subpoena is issued for the day of the accident. If you know the approximate time of the accident, or with GPS data, the exact time of the accident, then you can easily determine if your driver or the plaintiff was on the cellphone.

This can be a vital piece of evidence to determine the actual (or contributing cause) of an accident. NEVER, forget to obtain this information. Good or bad, you need to know.

So how bad, can it get? My friend and client, Mehdi Arradizadeh, Risk Director of Anderson Trucking Service, Inc. recently sent out an e-mail blast about the train collision in Madrid Spain:

The driver of the train that derailed and killed 79 people in Spain was on the phone and traveling at 95 mph (153 kph) – almost twice the speed limit – when the crash happened last week, according to a preliminary investigation released Tuesday.

The train had been going as fast as 119 mph (192 kph) shortly before the derailment, and the driver activated the brakes “seconds before the crash,” according to a written statement from the court in Santiago de Compostela, whose investigators gleaned the information from two “black box” data recorders recovered from the train. The speed limit on the section of track was 50 mph (80 kph).

The crash occurred near Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, and was the country’s worst rail accident in decades. Dozens of passengers are still hospitalized for injuries.

The driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, was talking on the phone to an official of national rail company Renfe when the crash happened and apparently was consulting a paper document at the time, the statement said. Garzon was provisionally charged Sunday with multiple counts of negligent homicide.

The driver received a call on his work phone in the cabin, not his personal cell phone, to tell him what approach to take toward his final destination. The Renfe employee on the telephone “appears to be a controller,” the statement said.

“From the contents of the conversation and from the background noise it seems that the driver (was) consulting a plan or similar paper document,” the statement said.

Investigators from the Santiago de Compostela court, forensic police experts, the Ministry of Transport and Renfe examined the contents of the two black boxes recovered from the lead and rear cars of the train.

The investigation is ongoing. The next steps include measuring the wheels on the cars and examining the locomotive, the statement said without providing an explanation for those checks. Sniffer dogs will also be used to search for human remains in the wreckage, it said.

The train was carrying 218 passengers when it hurtled off the tracks last Wednesday evening. It slammed into a concrete wall, and some of the cars caught fire. The Spanish rail agency has said the brakes should have been applied four kilometers (2.5 miles) before the train hit the curve.

It can be JUST THAT bad. I am seriously convicted about MY proper use of the cell phone while driving.  With 80,000 pound trucks traveling down the interstates at 65 miles an hours, we ALL better be more serious and take a  strict policy against it. Obviously, not every accident is related to improper cell phone usage, but it certainly may be a factor.
If you’re not checking to see if the OTHER driver was using the cell phone at the time of the accident, then start. It’s just a little more work but it may be what helps you win/settle the case.

Keep up the good working in maintaining safety on the highways. If there is ever anything I can do for you in North Louisiana or Northeast Texas, I am just a phone call away. I can be reached any hour of the day, any day of the week at 318-617-1960.

Mark Perkins
Perkins & Associates, LLC


Recent Posts