In 2008, Russell Hurd’s daughter, Heather, was killed in a Florida car accident involving a truck when a truck ran a red light and collided with eight passenger vehicles. The truck driver was distracted by text messaging when the accident took place. Since then, Hurd has been trying to ensure that laws are passed banning drivers from talking on their cell phones or texting while driving.
Earlier this year, bills which would have banned text messaging and cell phone use in cars and trucks in Florida were killed in committees. Hurd has another opportunity this upcoming Tuesday, when a summit on distracted driving will be held by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in Washington. Hurd and others hope to convince lawmakers at the summit to change the laws to help prevent Florida truck accidents and car accidents involving distracted drivers.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 20% of all accidents in 2008 were caused by distracted driving. That same year, there were 6,000 fatalities due to distracted driving. Drivers who are distracted are four times more likely to be in an accident than drivers who are not distracted.
Although texting and cell phone use have been targeted as a culprit in distracted driving, distracted driving can include driving while performing any other activity. Some Florida car accidents and truck accidents caused by distracted driving were the result of a driver changing music, adjusting the stereo, searching for a dropped item on the floor, reading, shaving, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, and many other activities. Any activity that distracts a driver from the road is potentially deadly.
For truck drivers, the risks are especially high. In many cases, trucks are on highways, driving at high speeds. The size and force of a truck is immense and trucks take longer than passenger vehicles to stop. When a driver is distracted, there is often no way for the truck driver to avert an accident. There is simply no way to stop the truck in time and the force of the truck pushes the truck forward.
Of course, Florida trucking accidents involving distracted drivers are especially tragic because they are often so preventable and so tragic. When a truck runs a red light or loses control because the driver is distracted, the truck has the potential to hit or even roll over many cars, causing multiple injuries and fatalities. For example, in the accident involving Heather Hurd, eight cars were damaged by the truck. Two fatalities and several injuries resulted.
One problem with Hurd’s quest is the fact that the definition of distracted driving is so broad. In fact, this is what caused the bills in Florida to fail to pass. Lawmakers question how many activities should be or could be banned under legislation, and experts agree that it is a problem. If a law were to ban cell phone use but still allow eating while driving, that would not reduce the instances of distracted driving.