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Why Are So Many Truckers Distracted?

Distracted driving is one of the gravest dangers on the road. Motorists who should be focused 100% on driving instead have their attention diverted, which leads to accidents. When the person distracted is driving a large, heavy commercial vehicle, then the results are tragic. Distraction is a serious problem for truckers, with one study finding that 8 out of 10 truck accidents were caused by driver inattention.

Contact Stewart Miller Simmons Trial Attorneys today if you were hurt in a truck crash. There is every possibility that the trucker was distracted, which means they are liable for the accident. We can review all evidence and sue if you call an Atlanta truck accident attorney at our firm. Below, we look at the most common sources of distraction.

Cell Phone Use

Cell phones are a major source of distraction—so serious that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has passed a rule prohibiting hand-held cell phones in commercial vehicles. A trucker may only use a “hands free” device which is mounted to the dash.

Cell phones cause multiple distractions:

  • Visual distraction. Most obviously, the trucker is looking at the phone to read a text message or type one out. He is not even looking at the road in front of him. A vehicle going 55 miles per hour will travel the length of a football field in only 5 seconds. It is very easy to overlook a car in front of you.
  • Manual distraction. Holding a phone takes at least one hand off the wheel. To type out a text, most people use both hands. That means the trucker cannot quickly turn the wheel, if necessary, to avoid a crash.
  • Cognitive distraction. This might be the most serious type of distraction. A person reading or typing a message is focused on the message. Consequently, they might “see” something in front of them but not really register it. This type of distraction can last for a long time after reading only one text.

As seasoned Atlanta truck accident lawyers, we’re happy the government is limiting cell phone use. But we must point out that even hands-free devices cause distraction—particularly cognitive distraction, which can last for almost half a minute once you finish reading a text. Too many people are being hurt.

Food & Drink

Truckers are on the road for long hours and naturally get hungry. We don’t blame them for reaching for a bag of chips, a drink, or a sandwich while driving. Still, eating and drinking are major sources of distraction. A trucker might take their eyes off the road, even briefly, while trying to unwrap a sandwich or put sugar in a coffee.

Even worse, some foods might spill all over the trucker. Hot soup or coffee could burn a trucker, causing him to swerve all over the road in response.

Ideally, truckers would only eat and drink while stopped at a rest stop. But many of them consume food and beverages while driving—and accidents follow.


A trucker might give someone a lift, and any conversation could cause distraction. Trucking companies typically limit who can ride inside the cab, but they have little ability to enforce their rules. Truckers sometimes pick people up, which leads to distracting conversations.

Dispatch Devices

Trucking companies stay in touch with their truckers by using dispatch devices. Called “portable data terminals,” they help truckers with all sorts of functions, like keeping their logs. Although they make a trucker’s job easier, these devices are very bit as distracting as cell phones. Truckers shouldn’t feel pressured to immediately respond to a message, but many do. According to the FMCSA, using one of these devices increases the risk of being involved in a safety critical event by 9 times.


An alarmingly high percentage of truckers do drugs, even when driving. The most common drugs include marijuana, methamphetamines, and cocaine. All cause major impairments and accidents.

However, simply doing drugs also causes distraction. A trucker might roll a joint, which is an obvious source of distraction. Other truckers might drop some pills on the floor and reach down to collect them, all while trying to drive their rigs at high speeds.

Paper Maps or GPS Devices

Truckers traveling to an unfamiliar location often need help with direction. They could use a GPS device or an old-fashioned paper map. These are definite sources of distraction. For example, the FMCSA reports that reading a paper map increases by 7 times the chances of being involved in a safety critical event.

Outside Distractions

Most distractions probably happen inside the cab. But there are many distractions on the other side of the windshield. For example, a trucker might be “rubbernecking”—looking at cars involved in accidents. Or flashy billboards or signs could draw the trucker’s attention away from the road. Weather might also be a distraction, such as a hailstorm.

Fatigue Makes Distraction Worse

Many truckers are not getting enough sleep. The FMCSA has passed rules limiting the number of hours truckers haul each day and each week. They also should get a half-hour break from driving after 8 hours. Unfortunately, these rules are not enough to ensure truckers are fully rested. And some truckers simply ignore the rules because they are anxious to reach their destination as quickly as possible.

One side effect of fatigue is difficulty processing information. A tired driver might also have delayed reflexes and trouble multitasking or problem solving. As a result, a tired driver will become even more distracted if they reach for a cellphone or his dispatch device. It can take a trucker longer to process the information on a map, and they could fumble food or drink all over themselves.

Injured by a Distracted Driver? Fight Back

Stewart Miller Trial Attorneys will meet with anyone hurt in a trucking accident. You deserve compensation when a distracted trucker plows into your car. For more information, or to get answers to your questions, please call our law firm today at 404-LAW-FIRM

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