In the United States, on average, eight people are killed and over 1,000 are injured every day in collisions that reportedly involve a distracted driver. Each person that engages in a distracting activity while driving, including the use of a cell phone, puts the lives of others on the road at risk.
This risk greatly increases when the distracted driver is operating a large vehicle, such as a semi-trailer truck. The weight and size of most semi-trailer trucks not only make them harder to stop, but also increase the likelihood that serious injury or death will occur if they are involved in a collision with a much smaller car or pedestrian.
A recent truck accident settlement reached in a federal court case in the United States District Court for the District of South Carolina could encourage companies that own semi-trailer trucks to ban their drivers from using cell phones or other distracting devices while operating their vehicles. The settlement in question arose from an incident involving a semi-trailer truck that struck the back of a couple’s vehicle as they slowed to turn into their driveway. Phone records indicated that the driver of the semi-trailer truck was talking on his cell phone at the time of the accident. As a result of the collision, the couple filed suit against Unifi Inc., a North Carolina-based company that owned the semi-trailer truck.
Prior to the lawsuit, Unifi had a policy in place that allowed its truck drivers to use their cell phones as long as the driver used a Bluetooth wireless device and refrained from talking on the cell phone for longer than two minutes at a time. Unfortunately, for both Unifi and the injured couple, Unifi did not actually enforce its cell phone policy. According to phone records and other documents obtained, Unifi’s drivers regularly used their cell phones for much longer periods of time than the policy allowed. In fact, the driver of the truck involved in this wreck had been using his cell phone for roughly seven out of the eight-and-a-half hours that he had been driving on that shift. In light of the evidence presented against its driver, Unifi agreed to pay the couple $3.75 million to settle the case.
Unifi has since decided to completely ban the use of cell phones by its drivers while they are on the road. This decision brings Unifi in line with many other trucking companies that have already banned the use of cell phones by their drivers. In fact, some companies have gone so far as to install cameras in the cabs of their trucks to ensure that their drivers are not placing others in danger through distracting cell phone use.
Of course, there are also still many companies that still allow cell phone use to the extent that it is allowed by federal law. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, drivers of semi-trailer trucks can use cell phones as long as the use is hands-free. Hopefully, however, the size of the Unifi settlement in this truck accident case will encourage other trucking companies to re-evaluate their policies and make the changes necessary to ensure that no one is put an unnecessary risk by distracting cell phone use.
If you or someone you know have been involved in an accident with a distracted driver, please know that the attorneys at Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz are here to help you. Just like the attorneys in the case against Unifi, our experienced attorneys can subpoena cell phone records and other documents to help prove your case. Let us use our knowledge and experience to help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Call 1-800-LAW-4004 for a free consultation.