This Truck Driver Had a Distraction You Won’t Believe

Trucker Gets 20 Years for Hitting School Bus While Naked Wife in Cab

I am constantly surprised by what some truck drivers do while operating a 40-ton tractor-trailer. As a personal injury lawyer, I have handled many truck crash cases in which the trucker was texting, surfing the net, chatting on the phone, eating lunch, reaching down for a soft drink, and/or not watching the road in front of him.

Yesterday I wrote about a Fort Worth collision I’m filing suit over where the 18 wheeler driver was distracted and slammed into my client’s stopped SUV at 68 MPH.

But a Florida truck driver took distraction to a whole new level.

The 37 year-old truck driver plowed his log-hauling rig into an elementary school bus that had slowed to drop off kids. The driver was so distracted he failed to notice the bright flashing lights and the “stop” arm jutting from the side of the bus. No wonder!

After listening to the heartbreaking testimony of the seven severely injured school children on Wednesday, the judge showed the distracted truck driver no mercy. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the 2014 crash.

Distraction is a Leading Cause of Tractor-Trailer Crashes

Although this story is unusual, distraction is not. In fact, a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration study found that distraction contributed to an unbelievable 71 percent of all commercial vehicle accidents, making distraction the second most common driver error.

Even scarier, the top most common driver error is speeding. The image of an 18-wheeler barreling down the highway while the driver types a text sounds like a horror flick, but is all too real.

Now consider these top driver errors:

  • Speeding
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • Distracted driving
  • Unfamiliarity with the roadway
  • Prescription pharmaceutical impairment
  • Over-the-counter medication impairment
  • Exhaustion, fatigue and sleepiness

Add Poor Maintenance to the List

There is obviously no excuse for the Florida trucker’s conduct. But the trucking company should also be held liable for the children’s injuries. Eight of the vehicle’s 10 brakes were broken at the time of the crash.

Why was this truck even on the road?  Guess what — defective truck parts are often the norm.

The Texas Department of Transportation grounded 22 percent of commercial vehicles in June after its Roadcheck inspections uncovered dangerous safety problems. Bad brakes and insufficient lighting were the number one reasons the TxDOT took trucks out of service.

1,710 of the 7,865 trucks were in such bad shape that they were taken out of service. Others were issued citations for poor maintenance, but allowed to remain on the road.

The Roadcheck inspectors also deemed 212 drivers unfit to drive during its three days of inspections. An additional 1,947 drivers were cited and 21,312 drivers were issued warnings.

Why Doesn’t TxDOT Do Roadcheck Inspections All the Time?

The results of the Roadcheck should frighten any Texas motorist. The numbers of problems reflects the need for regular inspections. The trucking industry can simply not be trusted with maintaining their vehicles and hiring competent drivers without substantial oversight and enforcement.

I have represented the victims of Dallas and Fort Worth tractor-trailer crashes for 36 years. The causes are like a broken record. Enough is enough. It’s time to make badly needed changes so more innocent drivers aren’t injured.

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