I have become personally involved in a terrible story of distracted driving that caused a truck driver who was on Facebook to barrel into three police cars and a fire truck stopped at an accident scene, killing one of the police officers as a result.
Here’s the television news story on the fatal truck crash in Arizona, from ABC News:
The truck driver was intentionally blocking his dash cam with his wallet in the video. At the time he was supposed to be watching the road, he was actually logged into Facebook. As he was driving his empty, 18-wheel fuel tanker down the highway, records showed he was actually browsing photos of scantily clad women. Instead of the road.
Full disclosure: My law partner Michael Leizerman from the Truck Accident Attorneys Roundtable is one of the attorneys in this case, and we have already had a discussion on this case and the issues it presents.
The truck driver, Juan Espinoza, now faces 20 felony charges, including second-degree murder. He has pleaded not guilty, and was released on $200,000 bond.
Needless to say, Espinoza has violated several fundamental safety laws that are meant to protect us all on the public roads when he was using his cell phone at the time of the crash.
As of January 2012, there is a hand-held cell phone ban for commercial truck and bus drivers.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) rule was designed to reduce truck accidents at the hands of distracted truck drivers, and applies to truck drivers nationwide.
Obviously, truck accidents are more likely to occur is the driver is using his or her cell phone. Here are some statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration:
- Commercial truck drivers reaching for a cell phone are three times more likely to be involved in a truck crash or other safety-critical event.
- Dialing a hand-held cell phone makes it six times more likely that commercial drivers will be in a truck accident.
Both Michael and I have lectured at many legal seminars to truck accident attorneys in other states. Because this is an Arizona truck accident, one claim that will be brought will be a punitive damages claim. I believe the science on driver distraction with cell phones is now sufficiently clear that any lawyer should add a punitive damages claim against any driver and truck company where it’s discovered that a trucker was on the phone at the time of causing a serious accident.
This Arizona crash isn’t the first fatal truck accident caused by a truck driver on the Internet looking at pornographic images. I wrote about a similar truck accident that claimed the life of a young mother in my blog, “Trucker kills young mother while watching porn and driving tractor-trailer.”
We send our sincere condolences to the family of Officer Tim Huffman.
Once again, this truck accident and the innocent life that was taken were entirely preventable.