Gary Bell: Good morning. Welcome to the Bell & Pollock Legal Show. Today we’re doing a new sequel (Part 1 | Part 3) in our series on big trucks, big rigs, 18-wheelers. It doesn’t have to be an 18-wheeler to be a commercial truck, it just have to be over 10,000 pounds. We’ve covered that in shows before, but we’re talking about the big rigs today. You’re going 60 miles an hour, 70 miles an hour down the roadway weighing 80,000 pounds, what do you think is going to happen? What do you think is going to happen? We say yeah, this is a major catastrophe and for the insurance companies it’s just another ordinary day, another ordinary event to try to beat you in your claim.
Usually these accidents with big rigs involve tragedies, they’re horrific, but you need to see lawyers who understand the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules and Regulations. Why? Because this is not an ordinary car crash. Yes, the common law governs it and yes, there’s statutes, but the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules are in the thousands of subparts and parts. You have to have attorneys that understand those rules because those rules govern liability. They help you recover, they help you maintain a claim against the insurance companies for these trucking companies and they have their own lawyers, they have their own doctors. Who do you have?
Today we’re talking about big rigs, but we’re also talking about talking and texting. These drivers talk and text on the phones and we’re going to explore things with you today I bet you never thought of. Brad, the statistics on these things, the stats, the studies are just astronomical on the effects and what happens with this talking and texting.
Brad Pollock: They’re amazing because we’re talking about a relatively new phenomenon and what amazes me is it’s a relatively new phenomenon, but we’ve known for years, for a number of years that texting and driving, plain and simple, is a dangerous act. We also know talking on the phone and driving is a dangerous act especially if it’s a phone you’re holding to your ear rather than having a hands-free device. The hands-free devices are installed in vehicles now, so you have to put up with those, but the situation is is that we’ve heard many, many times what the situation is.
We know that texting, for instance, texting, you’re 23 times more likely to have an accident than a non-distracted driver. Now think about that, 23 times more likely to have an accident. An estimated 160,000 accidents were caused by texting and driving in 2010, 160,000 accidents caused by texting that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. Eleven percent of the drivers aged 18 to 20 were involved in an automobile accident and survived, admitted that they were sending or receiving a text, a text. Eleven percent of your 18 to 20-year-olds are sitting there texting.
They admit they got into an accident while they were doing it and more than 3,000 people lost their lives, 3,092 people lost their lives in 2010 as a result of distracted driving. Now can we take those 3,092 and say they were all texting, no, but we know a number of them were involved in accidents that involved texting, more than 3,000 people, more than 3,000 people. That’s more than 51 city buses full of people that lost their lives because of distracted driving and that’s what texting is.
Gary Bell: That’s incredible. Those statistics are incredible, so you need to pay attention to this. We’re talking about texting and talking with cell phones on truck drivers and we say all the time there’s a lot of ethical companies out there. There’s a lot of ethical companies that have good safety directors, implement safety rules, require a compliance by their drivers, but there’s some that don’t and those are the ones we’re talking about. Those are the ones that usually end up in tragedies. We’re not complaining about it or dissing every truck company, every truck driver, but we are after, we are after the ones who violate these rules and today we’re talking about talking and texting.
One thing I want to cover, Brad, is that everybody talks about talking and texting and in Colorado we know, we have a statute that says it’s illegal to text and drive. That was passed, but they did not pass the statute in Colorado saying it was illegal to talk on your phone. Okay, so what are we talking about on trucks, here’s what we’re talking about on trucks. As I said at the outset of this program the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules and Regulations, so I’ll just call them the federal rules for a shorthand method. The federal rules, they dictate what’s going to happen with the truck drivers. They mandate what’s going to happen with the safety director and these companies that put these rigs on the road. These federal rules say you cannot text while you drive and you cannot use a handheld phone while you drive. Okay, so the state law says … It says nothing about using a handheld phone, but for the truck drivers there’s special rules.
Brad Pollock: They are and they should be. Now remember, the surveys have indicated that one in five drivers, one in five of your drivers are surfing the net while they drive. Okay, so no, they’re not texting, they’re surfing the net. That takes their eyes off the road even more. It has them even more involved in what’s going on is they’re trying to get their selection and surf the net, read whatever articles they’re looking at, one in five. That’s right, Gary, we have laws in the State of Colorado to stop the texting and driving, but the federal laws go further. They’re a lot tougher, they’re more stringently interpreted.
Whether or not they’re more stringently enforced is another question because you do have to ask how often do you see anybody or do you know of anybody getting cited for violating one of these federal laws with an accident having happened, just being able to see it because that’s one of the hard parts is being able to detect that the person is texting, that the person is on the Internet. They’re driving may be erratic, it’s being distracted, but as I said one of the main problems is when you’re driving and texting or driving and surfing the net, driving using the phone especially handheld devices where you’ve got them in your hand, you’re placing yourself in a situation where you cannot react to anything else that might happen on the road.
Gary Bell: Right.
Brad Pollock: You may not be able to see it immediately, but you can’t react.
Gary Bell: React, Brad, react, to react you’ve got to see something. When they’re looking at their cell phones for five, six seconds they’re not seeing anything. They’re driving … Let’s just use 80,000 pounds. An 80,000 pound deadly missile down the highway, we’re going to go to five or six seconds and they’re not even looking at the road. The federal rules say and define that these companies and these drivers are supposed to … They look at an accident and they call it either a preventable or an unpreventable accident. If it’s preventable then the motor carrier and the driver are liable, if it’s preventable. One of the ways they look to see if it’s preventable is whether or not the driver was texting or talking on the cell phone.
Brad Pollock: It’s not a question did the driver cause the accident, it’s a question of could the accident have been averted, but for an act or a failure to act by the motor carrier, the failure to act. In other words, was there something up there that was occurring on the road, something in front of them or off to the side that they could have averted the act had they seen it, reacted to it, comprehended it, or reacted to it and averted the accident. That’s where you lose that ability if you’ve got your mind set and you’ve got your hands set and you’ve got your eyes set on a text or an Internet or a phone.
Gary Bell: Yeah, and it’s illegal, they can’t do it, but you’ve got to discover it. Last week I gave some calculations on the air about speed and distance and I was wrong and so I’m going to get those corrected today. We’ve got a phone call from a retired police officer. I wish he or she would have left their name, I’m going to talk to him and we’re glad they called, we appreciate the call. I pointed out that I was wrong in my calculations for speed and distance and we’re going to get those squared away today. We appreciate you, whoever you are, listening to the show and we appreciate the call.
Let’s get a couple of things squared away here. Let’s talk about one of these 80,000 pound trucks, a missile of death going down the road and if it’s for six consecutive seconds and I’m going to show you some studies after the break, but for six consecutive seconds, okay, going 70 miles an hour. That truck will cover roughly 630 feet. Think about that, 630 feet, that’s longer than two football fields, longer. You’ve got a truck going longer, a greater distance than two football fields not even looking at the road.
What do you think, folks? What do you think? At four seconds going 60 miles an hour is approximately 352 feet, okay, six seconds at 60 miles an hour is approximately 528 feet. That’s almost two football fields. That’s incredible. The statistics are incredible. What I want to point out to you is the research from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration who publishes these rules demonstrates these drivers who text while driving, take their eyes of the road for an average of five out of every six seconds, wow.
Brad Pollock: Five out of every six seconds. That means it’s blind, that means everybody stop right now and think and count to six, go 1001, 1002, to six and imagine if … For those of you who are driving please don’t do this, but imagine if you had just driven that six seconds that you’re counting in your mind blind with your eyes closed. Would you want to do it? Is that something you intend to do? Is that something you should be doing? Guess what, that’s what the driver’s doing in an 80,000 pound … that’s 40 tons?
Gary Bell: Yeah.
Brad Pollock: Forty tons.
Gary Bell: I’m telling you why and think about it.
Brad Pollock: An 80,000 pound truck. Mind you I’m not trying to draw a distinction. Those of you in cars shouldn’t be texting and driving.
Gary Bell: No, it’s the same principles.
Brad Pollock: You shouldn’t be surfing the Internet in your car and driving. The bottom-line is is you’ve got to understand how fast and how far you travel because we become very acclimated and very, very … in a comfort zone while we’re driving thinking that we’re okay and everything’s fine, but it’s not when you start putting yourself in a situation where you’re traveling two football fields without even seeing the road.
Gary Bell: That’s amazing. Brad, you just brought up a really good point. We got a break coming up, but your point is these cars are made anymore, we’re talking about a car now, where you almost don’t realize you’re going 60, 70, 80 miles an hour. It’s just so comfortable, it seems slow, it seems comfortable, it seems okay, so let’s just get on the phone and text because it’s okay. You don’t realize you’re going 60 to 80 miles per hour.
Okay, we’re still talking about big rigs. We were talking about texting and people say it’s not illegal in Colorado to talk on the phone, but the Federal Motors Carrier Safety Rules say it’s illegal for the truck driver to use a handheld device. You can’t do it. There’s no room for talk or interpretation. You just can’t do it, you can’t text and some of these things lead to very tragic circumstances.
Brad Pollock: Right, the companies themselves are supposed to have programs. Their programs are supposed to establish that you’re not to do that, that you can’t do it. The companies have responsibilities to make sure they’re not communicating with the driver inappropriately or at a time when they’re not supposed to or in a manner that they’re not supposed to communicate with the driver. It’s understandable, we’ve talked about good drivers, there’s also bad drivers.
It’s understandable that when you’re out there on the road a lot of times drivers, it seems like boredom. They’re traveling the same route they’ve been traveling for the last so many years just like all of us travel the same route to and from work for the so many years. After awhile you get used to it, you think you know where the stops and the go’s are and what’s going on. You’re being dangerous, you’re being dangerous, more dangerous than a threshold drunk driver when you’re on the road just texting and just using these handheld devices. It’s even worse, it’s even worse as far as your ability to handle something that’s out of the ordinary. A lot of driving is defensive driving where you’re needing to handle things that might occur that are out of the ordinary.
Gary Bell: Last week we talked about fatigued drivers. Remember, we were talking about drivers with fatigue, how you prove it, how you find out about it, what do you do, hours of service, driving, GPS, et cetera, so that was a good show on that. Take a fatigued driver texting, take a fatigued driver talking on the phone. What do you think is going to happen? It’s distracted … Look here, according to the National Highway Transportation Administration texting while driving is reportedly roughly six times, six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated. Whoa, wow, six times more than being drunk and they also said it was the same as driving after having consumed four beers.
Are you going to put up with that? No.
Are you going to find out about it? Of course, this is how you protect your rights and remedies.
You just can’t drive while texting and you ing which we haven’t even covered, you take other violations of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Rules and you have a grand recipe for disaster and you need to have attorneys that understand that. We’re talking about driving while texting. The prohibition, there’s a prohibition in the federal rules that says no driver shall engage in texting while driving. There’s no interpretation room, there’s no misinformation, you can’t do it.
Brad Pollock: The job of an attorney when there’s been an accident where this has occurred is to find out that information, is to get the necessary information and compare whether or not the driver was on the phone or not. You can’t just take their word for it. They’re always going to tell you no, I wasn’t on the phone. No, I wasn’t texting, but that’s not what an attorney’s job is. An attorney’s job is to ask first and find out or to ask and find out, but also to verify the information that’s given. That takes making use of the data that’s available and that takes going out and doing what I would call the real elbow work, the hard work. You’re finding out whether or not that phone has been used.
Gary Bell: In the old days we called it elbow grease, but you’ve got to do the hard work, you’ve got to do the discovery. By the way, I want to tell you something. When you get involved in these cases these defendants and their attorneys, they don’t turn over this information easily, they fight it and they fight it in so many ways I can’t keep them covered on the radio and neither could Brad. They fight it and you’ve got to have aggressive attorneys that go after this information.
Let me give you a couple of examples here that we’ve seen orders on the cell phones or text messages. The driver was calling in, there was bad weather and one of the text messages said drive on, we don’t care about the bad weather meaning about the bad weather. We don’t care, we’ll get fined if your load is late. They got to get that load to a certain city. Another example is “don’t argue.” You can’t stop, hurry up and get there. Really? That’s what you’re driving, that’s on the road today? That’s on the road today. You’ve got to pay attention to what you’re doing. Brad, you’re talking about preventable accidents. Let’s just talk a little bit about the discovery efforts you have to go through to get this information.
Brad Pollock: It’s not easy, it’s not easy at all because it’s a matter of getting information you can compare and you can find out what’s going on. Sometimes that takes getting the cell phone bills of course, you’re always going to want to have that. You need to get the driver’s logs and we talked last week about both sets if there’s two sets, so you can get the information with respect to that. You need to see if there’s any voicemail messages, any videos, tower locations, can all be discovered and determined by an appropriate analysis of the cell phone data.
You’ve got to have people that know to do that and you have to get the information put together. You’ve got to be able to determine who’s being contacted in the cell phone communications or in the texting communications. Sometimes it’s very telling because if the company representative is texting with the driver during these communications now all of a sudden you’re not just looking at a negligent driver out on the road, you’re looking at a company that’s committed negligence that shouldn’t be engaging in the text or the telephone communications with the driver while the driver’s on the road.
Gary Bell: Right, and you want to be able to discover all the mobile devices. Sometimes they lie about their logs, they lie about computers, iPads. You’ve got to be able to discover this stuff and get after this information. We talked last week about comparing their logs to where they actually are. Okay, so what if the logbooks show that the person, the driver, the logbooks show he was in Lexington, Kentucky, in a sleeper sleeping, but his cell phone at the same time showed he was in Jacksonville, Florida, what do you got? You got liability all over the board, that’s what you’ve got.
Brad Pollock: They need to get to us and they need to not give any statements until they do. They need to get to us immediately, so we can start getting the evidence put together. So we can get the facts get put together and stop you from making statements, but even when truthful and accurate and showing you did nothing wrong can be turned against you, it can be used against you. An example is you got to get cell phone records, but a lot of these trucks now have EOBRD downloads and that’s in essence another set of logs on the truck that are electronic. They can’t be or they’re not going to be altered as easily and so that’s something the attorney has to try and get.
You’ve got to get to an attorney and keep your mouth shut till you do.
Gary Bell: You must have experienced attorneys. You can call us any time, Bell & Pollock, Gary Bell, Brad Pollock, 303-795-5900. In the mountains we have an office in Steamboat Springs, we co cases all over the State of Colorado, 970-870-8989, 870-8989 and our website, you couldn’t forget this if you tried,