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Be on the watch for distracted commercial truck drivers

As someone who drives a passenger vehicle, you have to share the road with people in vehicles much larger and heavier than your own. But you also must carefully check for the presence of those riding bicycles or motorcycles -- especially when merging or turning. It also means treating much larger commercial vehicles with respect and avoiding dangerous situations around them.

You probably already know to stay out of a truck's large blind spots. You may even realize that you need to give them more space for turns at intersections. However, you may have never considered that commercial drivers are as prone as other drivers to engage in questionable behaviors behind the wheel. That can include distracted driving, which increases the risk of a crash.

Truck driving is a long and lonely job

Whether a trucker drives a local route daily or treks cross-country each week, driving for such long hours is difficult. It's hard on the body to remain seated. It strains the knees and hips, as well as stressing the hands and arms through the constant need to hold the wheel. Drivers may work for up to 14 hours a day, which is a long time to be on the road.

Driving for so long can lead to exhaustion or road hypnosis. In order to stay awake and alert, truckers may do things like listen to loud music or even audiobooks. Others choose to break the law in hopes that texting someone will make them feel connected and alert enough to do their job.

Federal rules prohibit texting while driving a commercial truck

Many states, including Texas, have bans on manual use of cellphones while driving. That may apply to dialing or holding the phone, as well as texting behind the wheel. Truckers face different laws in every state, but the federal standard impacts them no matter where they drive.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) specifically bans texting while driving a commercial vehicle. In fact, they expanded the definition of texting to restrict many smartphone or mobile device uses. Drivers can not type or read any text-based messages (including SMS, email or instant messages). They also cannot type web addresses, social media status updates, browse websites or push multiple buttons to start or end calls.

Drivers who get caught texting while driving semi-trucks or other commercial vehicles face fines of up to $2,750. Repeat offenders could become disqualified for commercial driving for several months. Be on the lookout for truck drivers who text at the wheel, and do everything in your power to avoid them. If a distracted trucker causes a crash, you may have the right to pursue compensation for any injuries or property damage you suffer.

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