Most common distractions for Tractor Trailer Drivers.

How Common Driving Distractions Affect Tractor Trailer Drivers

When someone who is operating a tractor trailer and becomes distracted, it can have disastrous results. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administrations (NHTSA) estimates that over 3,300 individuals are killed annually in accidents resulting from distracted driving. There are also more than 400,000 injuries associated with these accidents. The efforts made to decrease deaths and injuries associated with distracted driving have not yet had a major impact.


The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) has determined there are three types of driver distractions. They are cognitive, manual and visual. A cognitive distraction is anything that takes a driver’s focus away from the activity of driving. This could include spending too much time thinking about something other than driving as well as watching videos and more. A manual distraction involves anything that may make a driver remove one or both of their hands from the tractor trailer’s steering wheel. This could involve eating, drinking or trying to retrieve items just out of reach. Visual distractions are things happening outside the tractor trailer that takes your visual focus off the road. This could include accidents and other things such as law enforcement activity and more. This is why the use of cell phones is so dangerous while driving, it pulls the driver’s mind, hands, and vision away from the task of safe driving.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)

Driving a tractor trailer is very different than driving a smaller vehicle. It is much more difficult to make quick corrections in a commercial truck. Research conducted by FMCSA shows tractor trailer drivers are 23 times more likely to be involved in a critical safety event when using handheld devices. These are events such as unintentional lane deviation, crash avoidance maneuvers and more.

FMCSA Cell Phone Rules

The FMCSA has issued administrative rules that apply to tractor trailer drivers for texting or calling on their cellphones while operating their vehicle. A tractor trailer driver is not permitted to use the internet or hold a cell phone when driving. Dialing a hand-held device increases the chances of a tractor trailer being in a crash by more than 575 percent. When texting, you will take your eyes off the road for an average of 4.5 seconds. The FMCSA provides rules for cell phone use. Drivers are not permitted to dial, hold or reach for a hand-held cell phone while operating a tractor trailer. A driver is permitted to use a cell phone after stopping on the side of the road where the tractor trailer can remain still. Use of a hands-free cell phone is permitted with a device such as with an ear piece.

Breaking Capability

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the capacity for braking with tractor trailers is often a major issue in wrecks. The distance required for safely stop a tractor trailer is considerably longer than a smaller vehicle. The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) estimates that a commercial vehicle weighing over 79,000 pounds and traveling at 55 mph under perfect weather conditions will take almost two football fields to come to a stop. This distance is more than 90 percent longer than for a regular sized vehicle. This means a tractor trailer driver must be constantly thinking about the road, planning ahead and traveling at a safe speed to avoid mayhem on our highways.

Navigation Systems

Navigational systems are very helpful for assisting a tractor trailer driver find their way around an area that is unfamiliar. They can however also present a risk while in use on a tractor trailer. Many of these navigation systems will require adjustments by the driver in route. Making these adjustments can take a driver’s attention away from driving. There are safer alternatives available. Many tractor trailer drivers prefer to use a navigation system that can be completely programmed prior to going on a trip. There are also navigation systems that are hands-free. It’s important to decrease the amount of distraction that can be caused by using any navigation system.


The FMCSA has statistics that prove tractor trailer drivers who obey their regulations have a much lower chance of being involved in a traffic accident or near collision. Staying focused and ready to react to changing traffic ad weather conditions can many times be the only way to avoid a deadly accident with another driver. Following the law regarding pre-trip inspections, in route inspections, and post-trip inspections of all critical safety components of a commercial vehicle combined with conscientious maintenance work hand in hand to prevent deadly equipment failures that put both the tractor trailer driver and the public at risk.

Free Consultation

If there comes a time when you or someone close to you are the victim of a wreck involving a tractor trailer, you will need an experienced tractor trailer accident lawyer to help you. Call David at 425-259-4151 to discuss your crash involving a tractor trailer.