103 People Survive Fiery Crash of Aero Mexico Flight 2431: Why Did the Plane Crash?

aero mexico flight 2431

Why Did Aero Mexico Flight 2431 Crash?

Based upon passenger reports and video taken by passengers on the Aero Mexico Flight 2431 which crashed near Durango, Mexico on July 31, 2018, the aircraft took off in adverse convective weather conditions commonly referred to as a thunderstorm. Passengers reported the aircraft started its takeoff roll in rain and encountered turbulence, heavy rain and hail shortly after takeoff.

The environment in and around an active convective cell can be very dangerous for an aircraft, especially those attempting to take off and land. Aircraft landings and take offs are very vulnerable to the adverse effects of a thunderstorm in the vicinity of an airport, even if the center of the storm is 20-30 miles away. In the Aero Mexico crash, witness reports suggest that a “hot” cell was very close to the airport and on the departure path of the aircraft.

How Dangerous Are Thunderstorms During Flights?

Thunderstorms can generate wind shears, strong downdrafts or microbursts, as well as heavy rain and hail. Wind shears are rapid changes in wind direction and speed relative to adjacent air. Pilots attempting to take off into a head wind can suddenly encounter a wind shear that produces a tail wind and the aircraft loses its lift. A strong downdraft or microburst can produce columns of air moving downward that exceed the aircraft’s ability to climb. The mix of downdrafts and wind shears can also alter the angle of attack over the wing and produce an aerodynamic stall and loss of lift. Hail and heavy rain entering the inlet of a turbine engine can cause a partial or complete loss of engine power.

Previous Accidents Involving Convective Activity

In the U.S., Delta Flight 191 at DFW Airport (1985) and American Airlines Flight 1420 at the Little Rock National Airport (1999) both involved fatal airline crashes where the aircraft encountered convective activity in the vicinity of the airport while attempting to land.

In the case of Delta 191, the pilots flew through a convective cell with a strong downward column of air called a microburst. The effect of the microburst and wind shears associated with it dramatically altered the angle of attack of the wing, causing a stall with the vertical column of air slamming the stalling aircraft into the ground.

With American 1420, the pilots elected to attempt a landing at the Little Rock airport with a thunderstorm converging on the airport. Landing to the north, the pilots did not arm the spoilers, a braking device, and as the aircraft touched down, weather data showed that the wind had shifted to impose a tail wind on the landing airliner. The aircraft ran off the end of the runway, crashed through structures and ended up in a marshy area next to the Arkansas River. Both Delta 191 and American 1420 experienced post-crash fires.

Contact Slack Davis Sanger

Slack Davis Sanger has experience with these types of crashes, having represented 25 surviving passengers and the family of two deceased passengers from American Flight 1420, and the families of six deceased passengers from Delta Flight 191. Our attorneys are pilots and include a former NASA engineer, so they understand the technical nature of plane crashes. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury in a plane crash, let us help. Our experienced and dedicated attorneys have a proven track record in personal injury law, including major litigation related to aviation accidents. We work tirelessly for our clients to get the results they deserve. Contact us for a free consultation.

why did aero mexico flight 2431 crash

Who Is At Fault In A Car Accident

Who Is At Fault In A Car Accident

It can be difficult to determine who is at fault in a car accident, but determining fault is important. Even minor fender-benders can wind up being costly due to vehicle damage and any injuries that may have resulted from the crash. In the case of more serious car accidents, especially those resulting in severe injuries or even fatalities, the costs can rise astronomically. Thus, for the individuals involved in the crash, as well as for insurance companies, attorneys and courtroom juries, it is extremely important to have all the facts and know the applicable laws to determine liability.

When multiple parties are involved in a crash and the circumstances of the collision are unclear, however, there may not be an obvious answer to the question of who is at fault. Which driver made a mistake? Was one driver negligent, or were both at fault? Was either driver speeding or otherwise breaking local traffic laws?

These are important questions to answer thoroughly, even if it seems obvious at first glance who was responsible. Insurance companies require evidence to determine who is liable for the damages, injuries or deaths sustained in a car accident. Evidence must also be presented to members of the jury or a judge when a car accident case goes to court.

One of the best types of evidence in establishing car accident liability is an official police report regarding the accident. When a police officer visits the scene of an accident, he or she must file a crash report, and that report will contain information that will be important in determining liability. If one or both drivers were speeding at the time of the crash, for example, that is an important detail the officer will include in the report. The officer will also include any related evidence, such as length of tire skid marks on the road, paint found on one vehicle’s dents that matches the color of the other vehicle, statements from witnesses who saw the accident occur and so on.

Car accident determining fault by location of damage

Car Accident: Determining Fault by Location of Damage

One common method of establishing liability after a car accident is determining fault by location of damage. Inspecting where the damage occurred on the vehicle can shed light on the collision, including the events that led up to it and who was the responsible party.

Police officers and insurance adjusters who assess damages after a car accident often use principles of physics to piece together clues provided by how, where and how extensively the vehicles involved in the accident were damaged. These individuals can look at dents and scratches on a vehicle, compare them with any injuries sustained by drivers or passengers involved in the crash and essentially trace the clues backward in time to construct a theory regarding how the crash occurred. They can also use these same clues to rule out implausible crash scenarios—ways the collision cannot have occurred.

For example, when a collision occurs between two cars traveling toward each other on two sides of the same roadway, and the crash leaves one car with a damaged front end and the other with a damaged passenger-side door, the clues suggest that the driver of the car with the dented door was attempting to make a left turn in front of oncoming traffic.

Another example of determining fault by location of damage is a collision at a stop sign that leaves one vehicle with a dented front end and the other with a damaged rear bumper. In this case, it can be surmised that the first car probably crashed into the second from behind.

Car accident hit from behind settlement

Car Accident: Hit-From-Behind Settlement

Having another vehicle hit you from behind, a crash caused by someone making a left turn and an accident which happens when the driver is changing lanes are among the most common types of auto and truck accident causes. In the case of rear-end collisions, the driver whose vehicle crashes into the back of the vehicle in front of them is almost always at fault. In most cases, evidence for liability in a rear-end collision is both clear and simple: One vehicle has a dented rear bumper that corresponds with the other vehicle’s dented front end. If the impact occurred at a stop sign or a red stop light, or if the driver of the rear-ended vehicle suffers from whiplash because of the crash, these are even more compelling bits of evidence in establishing liability and the need for compensation for the injured driver. All of these factors can be used to determine what type of settlement is appropriate.

There are rare cases in which the driver of the vehicle that was struck from behind is at least partially at fault. If the rear-ended car contributed in some significant way to the likelihood of an accident happening, it may be determined that the driver shared a portion of the liability for the crash. In this case, that driver would not be entitled to as much monetary compensation, even if they were seriously injured.

An example of this would be the rear-ended vehicle having non-functioning tail lights, particularly if the crash occurred at night. Another possibility would be if the driver of the rear-ended vehicle stopped, due to a breakdown or flat tire, in the middle of a high-speed roadway or in a low-visibility area (for example, just past the bend of a curve), and then failed to move the car out of the roadway to safety.

Car accident fault left turn

Car Accident Fault: Left Turn

Collisions that occur when a left-turning vehicle is struck by an oncoming vehicle going straight are another common type of car accident. As with rear-end collisions, there is one driver who will almost always be found to be at fault; in this case, the at-fault driver is almost always the driver who was turning left. That individual has the burden to use his or her turn signal, observe the roadway—including any pedestrians and all other approaching vehicles—and wait for a proper break in traffic before completing the turn safely.

There are two instances in which the oncoming vehicle that was going straight could be found to be at fault for the collision, whether in addition to or instead of the driver of the left-turning vehicle. If the driver of the car that was going straight ran a red light or was going significantly over the speed limit, that person is more likely to be found at least partially liable for the collision.

Who is at fault in a car accident changing lanes

Who is At Fault in a Car Accident: Changing Lanes

State traffic laws are integral to determining who is at fault in a car accident. Traffic laws vary from state to state regarding many aspects of driving, including legal lane changes. In Texas, for example, drivers are required to signal when they are changing lanes. If a driver causes an accident due to changing lanes unsafely, illegally or without signaling, he or she is likely at least to share responsibility for the accident, if not bear sole liability.

Car Accident: Car Owner-Related Liability and Self-Driving Cars

If you lend your car to a friend or family member and that person is involved in a crash, whether you will be held liable for damages and compensation depends on the specific situation, along with the particulars of your insurance coverage. Generally speaking, if you have given someone else permission to use your car, that individual is covered by your insurance policy in the event of a collision, unless your policy specifically excludes him or her based on age, driving record or other factors.

If someone, whether a friend, family member or stranger, takes your car without your permission and winds up in an accident, it can be hard to prove beyond any doubt that you didn’t give them permission. In that case, you may end up being at least partially liable for damages. You are also likely to be held liable for an accident if you loaned your car to someone who was unlicensed or who was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.

Self-driving cars are increasingly common on the road, and they present unique considerations and concerns regarding accident liability. If a driverless car is involved in a collision that results in vehicular damage, passenger injuries or both, who is to be held responsible for damages and compensation when there was no human driver? What happens when a case goes to trial when it comes to these new technologies? Only time will tell.

Since most self-driving vehicles currently on the road are still partly under the control of human drivers, the majority of crashes involving these vehicles are caused by human error. Thus, at this point in time, liability still falls on the people involved in the accident. In the future, however, as automation technology increases and humans become less and less involved in operating self-driving vehicles, the manufacturers of these vehicles are likely to be held accountable more often for damages and compensation in the event of a crash.

Slack Davis Sanger Can Help You Secure Compensation

If you have been involved in a car accident, or if someone else has an accident while driving your car, your best course of action is to contact a knowledgeable attorney who can advise you regarding your specific situation. In any car accident liability case, the burden of proof is on the drivers to provide evidence regarding liability issues for the insurance companies or the judge and jury if the case goes to trial.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, or if you lost a family member due to a fatal car accident in which the other driver was at fault, contact Slack Davis Sanger. Our attorneys are leaders in personal injury law, and we are experienced, caring and committed advocates for our clients. We are skilled in determining liability in car accident case and pursuing the full and fair compensation you deserve.

Aircraft Accidents Due To Human Error

Aircraft Accidents Due To Human Error

Unless you suffer from a general fear of flying, when you board an airplane, you probably aren’t thinking about possible causes of a plane crash. That’s a good thing, and not only because it is not constructive to worry. It’s also good to keep in mind that flying is a safe mode of transportation. Even so, aircraft accidents due to human error do occur. When compared to other factors, human error is the leading cause of both general aircraft and commercial airline crashes.

Aviation Accidents Due To Human Factors

Aviation Accidents Due to Human Factors

The term “general aviation” refers to smaller aircraft that are for either private or commercial use. This category encompasses many types of civil aircraft — everything from charter planes and business jets to helicopters, gliders and even hot-air balloons. Statistically speaking, general aviation aircraft are both more common and risky than commercial planes.

Despite the inherent risks associated with flying in any type of aircraft, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) reported in 2015 that general aviation accidents had been steadily declining for years, and associated fatalities had also declined. Commercial airline crash statistics may be even more encouraging: During the seven-year period from 2010 through 2016, not one U.S.-based commercial airline crash resulted in a fatality. In 2017, there were two commercial airline crashes that resulted in fatalities.

Even with these positive trends, fatal crashes continue to occur in general aviation. Furthermore, the accident rate for non-scheduled air carrier flights (which can include chartered flights, along with air taxi and medical taxi flights) actually increased slightly in 2015 from previous years. Helicopter crashes in particular have been more prevalent in the news recently, which has led many of us to wonder how safe these types of aircraft are in comparison to commercial planes.

While faulty equipment and unsafe weather conditions, including turbulence, can play important roles in some crashes, experts say that aviation accidents due to human factors are by far the most common type of aircraft accident. Boeing attributes 80 percent of commercial airline crashes to human error. Of course, “human error” can include mistakes made not just by aircraft pilots, but also by other people involved in aircraft flights, such as air traffic controllers, mechanics and maintenance crew members. Any one of these individuals working in the aviation industry can make a mistake or a bad decision that ultimately leads to an aviation accident.

Aviation Safety magazine reports an even higher number than that reported by Boeing, with close to 90 percent of crashes being due to pilot error. These can be either the sole cause or a contributing factor of the accident, such as when a pilot makes a mistake when trying to navigate with faulty equipment or in bad weather.

Pilot Error Statistics

Pilot Error Statistics

What exactly is “pilot error,” and what do pilot error statistics tell us about the cause of aircraft accidents?

The term “pilot error” refers to the various types of mistakes that pilots might make at any point during the operation of an aircraft, which can include both tactical errors (mistakes in decision-making) and operational errors (mistakes that result from poor training).

Pilots are required to perform many actions and make countless decisions during the course of operating an aircraft, and sometimes they make mistakes that result in a crash, like the case of a 2009 Air France flight from Rio to Paris. Investigators determined that crash was caused by the crew’s “inappropriate response” to a malfunction with the plane’s speed sensors, and noted that the crash could have been avoided had the pilots reacted appropriately.

Operator distraction is a common factor in aircraft accidents, and it can occur even when a pilot is focused on doing his or her job safely. A commercial airline flight nearly crashed at Denver International Airport in 2009, for example, when its pilot became distracted by landing preparations and wound up trying to accelerate the plane while the brakes were in use. Fortunately, the pilot was ultimately able to land safely, but not all risky situations during a flight turn out so well.

Other types of pilot error resulting in aircraft crashes include pilots who fly under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A 2013 Lion Air jet crash in Indonesia, initially thought to have been caused by windshear, was ultimately found to have occurred due to pilot inebriation. In fact, the majority of airline crashes in Indonesia have been found to be connected to pilots who tested positive for drug use.

Two recent airline crashes in Costa Rica involving a particular airline company, Nature Air, raised concerns among both passengers and aviation authorities about the company’s track record of safe air operations. Ultimately, the Costa Rican civil aviation agency suspended the airline in early 2018, as the investigation into the cause of the most recent crash continued.

Aircraft Accidents Due To Maintenance Errors

Aircraft Accidents Due to Maintenance Errors

Though human error is the leading cause of aircraft accidents, pilot error statistics tell only part of the story behind what causes planes to crash. Mechanical failures and maintenance errors are among the other possible causes behind airline accidents, which means that airplane mechanics are a crucial part of ensuring that everyone aboard a flight arrives safely at their planned destination.

When an aircraft has an accident, investigators look to the flight data recorder for information about all sorts of factors, including fuel levels, brake operation, pilot actions throughout the flight, airspeed and more. Crash investigators use this information to determine whether the crash resulted from a mistake on the part of the pilot, a mechanical failure or a maintenance error.

In 2005, an accident occurred when an amphibious airplane operated by Chalk’s Ocean Airline crashed into a shipping channel near the Port of Miami, Florida. Once crash investigators concluded their analysis, the NTSB reported their findings: that the crash had been caused by the separation of the plane’s right wing during flight, and that this had occurred due to dual failures in the airline’s aircraft maintenance program as well as on the part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which should have identified and corrected the airline’s inadequate maintenance procedures.

A more recent helicopter accident has brought up similar concerns about the FAA’s role in increasing aircraft safety and preventing aviation accidents. In March 2018, a tour helicopter crashed into New York’s East River, killing five passengers who drowned when they were unable to release themselves from their safety harnesses. After the fatal crash, experts, including Michael Slack from Slack Davis Sanger, raised concerns that the helicopter touring industry is running without enough oversight, and the NTSB called on the FAA to suspend all flights using harness systems that don’t allow passengers to release them quickly in the event of an emergency.

Aircraft Accidents Due To Automation

Aircraft Accidents Due to Automation

In modern life, ever-developing technologies are often used to move toward automation in a bid to increase safety and save people both time and effort. Aviation crash statistics, however, prove that automation isn’t always the best or safest option.

In 2013, the FAA released a report detailing their findings that airline pilots who relied too much on their planes’ automated systems were more likely to have accidents. A direct correlation was found between automation and aircraft safety incidents, including crashes. Based on these findings, the FAA recommended that airlines provide their pilots with extra training in proper use of aircrafts’ automated systems to increase flight safety.

To be fair, the human factor isn’t always associated with mistakes and bad judgment, so driverless planes aren’t necessarily the answer to the challenge of keeping air travelers safe. Along with making errors that have led to aviation accidents, pilots have also made tough decisions during flights that had a positive outcome. One such case was a British Airways flight in 2015 that was scheduled to fly from Las Vegas to London. The pilot aborted the flight during takeoff in response to an engine fire. That pilot’s decisions, made quickly, in the moment and under pressure, likely saved the lives of everyone on board. Out of over 170 passengers and crew members on board, only 27 people suffered minor injuries, most during the process of evacuating the plane (suffering abrasions while descending the evacuation slides).

Slack Davis Sanger Attorneys: Experts in Aviation Law

Transportation safety is ever-evolving, and the overall trend in aviation has been toward greater safety over the past one hundred-plus years since the first commercial flights began carrying passengers to destinations around the world. Aviation officials and lawmakers are working constantly, hand in hand, to improve passenger safety in both commercial and general aviation. Regulations and restrictions have been put in place in order to reduce human error in aviation, and rules are revised frequently in response to current research regarding the causes behind airline crashes.

Other industries, including within the private sector, are currently working toward greater aviation safety, as well. Due to rising concerns among both aviation officials and airline passengers about the safety of chartered flights, for example, a growing number of companies are providing safety audit reports, for a fee, to passengers or businesses wanting to research airlines’ safety statistics before reserving tickets for a flight.

Despite these strides toward increased aviation safety, however, aircraft accidents do still occur. When planes crash, the toll is often tragic in terms of life-altering injuries and loss of life. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury or even death in a plane or helicopter crash due to negligence or pilot error, let Slack Davis Sanger help. Our experienced and dedicated attorneys have a proven track record in personal injury law, including major injury litigation related to aviation accidents. We work tirelessly to get the results our clients deserve and secure the compensation they need. Contact us for a free consultation.

Railway Accidents: Causes and Safety Measures

Railway Accidents Causes and Safety Measures

When railway accidents occur, regardless of the causes or the safety measures that were in place, we can’t help but wonder about the safety of train travel. After all, when a vehicle as large and heavy as a train crashes, the resulting injuries and loss of life can be both tragic and extensive. What does the data show regarding the safety of trains? Why do train accidents happen, and what steps could be taken to make train travel less dangerous? Let’s take a closer look at the facts and statistics, including railway accident causes and safety measures that can prevent injuries and fatalities.

Causes of rail accidents

Causes of Rail Accidents

Recent studies have shown that although fatalities in railway accidents are relatively uncommon, the number of passenger injuries is increasing. Sadly, the rate of passengers injured while traveling on Amtrak trains is a shocking 58 times higher than for French rail passengers. Although high-profile accidents involving passenger trains more regularly make the news, studies show that a person or vehicle is struck by a train about every three hours. Trend data don’t provide much comfort, as The National Transportation Safety Board reports that deaths resulting from injuries sustained in train wrecks were up 6% in 2012.

So, why do rail accidents happen? The most common reason a train accident occurs is a derailment. The consequences can be more severe, depending on a number of factors, including the type of track involved (main, yard, siding or industry track), the length of the train, the number of cars which leave the track, the train’s speed at the time of derailment and the location of the first car when the train derails. Other causes include equipment and track problems, including damaged welds or rails, bearing failures and malfunctioning wheels. In addition to mechanical failure, a train can crash because of communication or signal problems and human errors made while operating the train.

Although trains have become more automated, operator error continues to contribute to accidents. For example:

U.S. Railway History and the Need for Safety Regulations

To understand the state of today’s U.S. railways, including train safety, it’s important to understand a bit about the history of our railroad system. America has a long, storied and deeply nostalgic relationship with trains. The modern railway industry in this country was born in the 1830s with the construction of the first mechanical passenger train. By 1850, over 9,000 miles of railroad tracks had been laid across the United States.

That figure had more than tripled just over a decade later, in 1861, when the Civil War began, with 22,000 miles of railroad tracks running across the Northern states and 9,500 miles across the South. Railways were a major part of the Civil War, as the Confederates depended heavily on trains for transporting munitions and other supplies. The Union army was able to take advantage of the fact that southern railways were disorganized, in disrepair and deteriorating fast, and this ultimately helped them win the war.

Post-war, more and more companies began using railroads to expand their business interests. It was during this time, as railway accidents occurred regularly and safety measures were nearly nonexistent, that the need for regulations became clear.

The railway industry has evolved quite a bit in the 150-plus years since. Environmental and financial concerns over the use of coal, a nonrenewable energy, along with other factors, have put the U.S. railway industry in a tricky position as far as adapting to shifting resources, increasing regulations and other industry demands. Trains are still heavily utilized all over the country, including commuter and passenger trains, as well as freight trains that transport products, chemicals and other items. Over time, train safety has emerged as one of the top concerns of the railroad industry as pressure to modernize increases.

Train accident statistics

Train Accident Statistics

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) reports rates of train accidents, employee injuries and grade crossing collisions. Grade crossings are intersections where railroad tracks and roadways cross each other at the same level; grade crossing accidents are typically collisions between trains and smaller vehicles like cars, trucks or buses. The Office of Safety Analysis within the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) maintains a database of train accidents and injuries and statistics about safety trends. The National Transportation Safety Board also keeps records of railway accidents.

If you are curious about the safety of train travel, here are a few findings recently reported by these agencies:

  • About sixteen Americans lost their lives because of a train each week in 2014, which was up 17% over the year prior, representing the most fatalities since 2007.
  • 2014 saw the largest number of non-passenger deaths of individuals struck by trains—255—in the four decades the FRA has been keeping records.
  • Of the 575 people who died on railroads in the same year, 70% perished in an accident involving a freight train.

The vast majority of railroad fatalities across the country actually occur not as a result of dramatic train crashes or derailments, but when trains accidentally strike individuals who are trespassing on railroad property. Still, rail safety has room to improve. Train accidents may be occurring with less frequency, but they still happen, and when they do, results can be devastating.

Railway accidents causes and prevention

Railway Accidents: Causes and Prevention

Causes of railway accidents are many and varied. As discussed earlier, train derailments can occur due to improper maintenance of railroad tracks, faulty equipment, a mechanical malfunction or a collision with another train. Trains can collide with cars, trucks and other smaller vehicles at grade crossings. These collisions often occur when the driver of the smaller vehicle disregards train signals or warning signs and chooses either to idle too close to the tracks or to drive over the tracks at an inopportune moment.

Train accident fatalities can also result from individuals on foot doing something dangerous, such as trespassing on railroad property or standing on or crossing railroad tracks at the wrong time. It takes lots of time and a long distance for a high-speed train to come safely to a stop, so a person or animal that comes too close to the tracks at the wrong time can cause a disaster. Still other railway accident causes include negligence on the part of the train operator, operator error (such as excessive speed or failure to brake properly), collapsed bridges and so on.

Fortunately, train safety has become a priority for the railroad industry. Train operators are now subject to more in-depth training time and stricter regulations than ever before. Industry regulations and oversight by the FRA are also more extensive. The FRA now oversees equipment and track inspections as well as signaling systems, employee certification, the speed at which trains operate and more. FRA and state inspectors work together around the country to evaluate railroad tracks and other facilities to ensure trains are being operated in accordance with safety regulations. Several other governmental entities, including the Department of Homeland Security, also have oversight over railway safety and regulations.

Ever-evolving technologies also play a big role in increasing train safety. Some of the newer technologies being used in the name of improving safety include both specialized vehicles and detectors that can detect flaws in railroad tracks and the ground beneath the tracks. Data related to individual train cars is also more detailed than ever, which means that sophisticated information technology systems can now flag specific cars in need of repair. Each of these technologies is designed to prevent train accidents before they have a chance to occur.

One safety initiative, a system of train control technology called Positive Train Control (PTC), has been in the works in Congress and railways around the U.S. since 2008. Some railroad lines already utilize PTC, and by the end of 2018, all Class I main lines that handle either hazardous materials or passenger trains (or both) are required to implement PTC. (Class I railroad lines are those that handle over 5 million gross tons annually.) However, as many as two-thirds of the 29 U.S. commuter railroads may not meet the deadline by the end of 2018.

PTC is designed to prevent several types of train accidents, including collisions between trains, grade crossing accidents and train derailments due to high speeds but is in operation on only 45% of tracks owned by freight railroads and 24% of tracks owned by passenger railways.

The train derailment in Washington State in December 2017 may have been prevented if PTC had been activated at the time of the crash (it had already been installed on the tracks). It would have alerted the engineer to slow down before the curve and would have automatically applied the brakes if the engineer failed to do so, according to the preliminary report issued by the NTSB. The FRA may grant an extension until 2020 for commuter railroads if they meet certain requirements. However, a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office released in February 2018 said that 19 of the 29 commute railroads may not meet the deadline or may not qualify for the extension.

Train safety

Train Safety: Looking to the Future

Overall, according to statistical data from many of the major railway organizations and transportation authorities, train safety has vastly improved over the years. These improvements have come about through increased regulations and oversight, as well as the continuing adoption of more effective safety technologies. Additional measures can help improve passenger safety and reduce deaths and injuries.

Specific advances that can help avoid future railway tragedies include:

  • Onboard detection systems, including wheel impact load detectors and hot bearing detectors, that alert engineers of faulty components
  • Ultrasonic and geometric track inspection systems that gather data with lasers to help more accurately schedule and identify needed repairs
  • Sensors at railway crossings to detect when someone enters, by foot or by car, an area a train will cross
  • Drones to conduct aerial inspections without the need to conduct on-track monitoring
  • Workplace practices that emphasize passenger safety, including improved screening of job candidates, better training and enhanced reporting of accidents

Slack Davis Sanger Advocates for Victims of Train Accidents

Data that demonstrates increased train safety is no comfort to the families and loved ones of anyone who has been seriously injured or killed in a railway accident. If you or someone you care about has been affected by a railway accident and you’re considering filing a claim, the experienced, caring and compassionate attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger can give you advice regarding your potential case. We have the practical and technical knowledge needed to help you make the right decision about how to best pursue legal action. Contact us for a free consultation.

Cell Phone Laws For Truck Drivers

cell phone laws for truck drivers

Far too many car crashes on U.S. roadways are caused by a single culprit: distracted driving due to cell phone use behind the wheel. In fact, according to the National Safety Council, cell phone use plays a role in 27 percent of car crashes. That’s over a quarter of all roadway accidents—a staggering statistic that really shouldn’t be any surprise. Most drivers are aware of the dangers of distracted driving, including the fact that it just isn’t safe to text, make calls or use smartphone apps while behind the wheel. Even hands-free cell phone use isn’t safe; anything that pulls a driver’s focus and attention away from the road is a hazard.

Distracted driving is an issue for all drivers, and the ubiquity of cell phones makes this especially true these days. Over 90% of adults have a cell phone, and most people have incorporated their phones into nearly every part of their daily life, including their time on the road. Of course, having a cell phone available while you’re driving can be a smart safety measure; it’s your lifeline if you have a flat tire, run out of gas or simply get lost. The key is using your cell phone correctly—meaning, pulling over so you can use your phone safely.

What many drivers may not know, however, is whether cell phone laws for truck drivers are the same as those for non-commercial drivers. Do these drivers who carry a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and operate commercial vehicles, such as large trucks or passenger buses, follow a different set of rules and regulations than other drivers on the road? Are they held to a higher legal standard than other drivers, and if so, are penalties higher for CDL drivers who are involved in traffic accidents? Let’s explore the facts.

Cell phone policy for CDL Drivers

A History of Cell Phone Policy for CDL Drivers

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) defines driver distraction as “the diversion of attention from activities critical for safe driving to a competing activity,” such as cell phone use. The FMCSA also notes that driver distraction “increases your risk of getting into a crash.” Distracted driving is a serious problem among all drivers, but due to the size and weight of most commercial vehicles, accidents involving these larger trucks are more likely to be serious or even fatal.

Since it takes more skill and experience to drive a commercial vehicle than to drive a smaller, non-commercial vehicle, drivers of commercial trucks, passenger buses and school buses are required to have a different kind of driver’s license: CDLs. There are three classes of CDL (Classes A, B and C) that are based on several considerations, including the vehicle’s weight as well as whether the driver is hauling a trailer, transporting hazardous materials or transporting more than 15 passengers. These license classes and distinctions were established in 1986 by the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act.

Legally speaking, CDL drivers are held to a higher standard on the road than other drivers. If a CDL driver commits a serious traffic violation, even while operating a non-commercial vehicle, it could jeopardize his or her CDL certification. Similarly, depending on individual state laws, truck and bus drivers are often subject to different laws, policies and regulations regarding cell phone use than other drivers.

This makes sense when you consider that researchers have found CDL drivers to be three times more likely to be involved in an accident when they reach for an object while driving, and six times more likely when they dial a handheld cell phone while driving. The Federation of American Scientists has reported a steady increase since 2009 in rates of truck accidents, injuries and fatalities, and a 2009 study found that 71% of crashes involving large trucks occurred due to truck driver distraction. That’s nearly three-quarters of all commercial truck accidents! Studies also show that large trucks and buses are responsible for a disproportionately large number of fatal traffic accidents. While commercial vehicles make up only 4% of the nation’s registered vehicles, they are involved in 12% of all traffic fatalities.

Clearly, these statistics show a real need for comprehensive regulations that improve road safety for all drivers.

CDL cell phone law

Are CDL Cell Phone Laws Working?

While cell phone laws differ from state to state, the majority of all U.S. states and territories have enacted various legal limits on cell phone use while driving, and those limits vary based on driver type. For example, in 47 states, all drivers, including CDL drivers, are banned from text messaging while a car is in motion, while 20 states have banned all cell phone use by school bus drivers.

Starting in 2012, all interstate truck and bus drivers were banned by federal law from any handheld cell phone use while behind the wheel. Additional federal regulations were passed a year later, in 2013, to limit both truck sizes and driving time to make roads safer, but many of those regulations have since been suspended. Without adequate limits on their time spent behind the wheel and working under the pressures of tight deadlines and low wages, CDL drivers are more likely to ignore cell phone usage laws and use their phones while driving. In fact, some commercial trucking companies allow or even require their drivers to use cell phones while on the road, despite the fact that this is both unsafe and illegal. Together, these factors create unsafe driving conditions for everyone on the road.

Commercial trucking companies and CDL drivers should be extra careful about cell phone use while driving, because reports in recent years have shown an increase in cell phone-related car crashes. As of 2015, texting-related crashes were estimated to have increased for three years straight. By contrast, crashes that involved talking on a cell phone were estimated to have decreased slightly over the same period. That said, the overall rate of cell phone-related crashes has gone up over time.

Furthermore, not all states are currently in compliance with federal laws regarding CDL drivers and cell phone usage. In Iowa, for example, commercial vehicle drivers will receive only a general citation for violating federal cell phone use laws, rather than a specific one. State and federal efforts to improve road safety, however, are ongoing. If state legislation introduced in Iowa is passed in 2018, Iowan CDL drivers will be more likely to lose their commercial licenses for a set of violations, including texting while driving.

Fine for texting while driving in a commercial vehicle

Can Truck Drivers be Fined for Texting While Driving in a Commercial Vehicle?

You might be wondering whether there is a fine for texting while driving in a commercial vehicle. The 2012 law discussed in the previous section bans commercial vehicle drivers from all forms of cell phone use, including texting, while operating a commercial vehicle—but what are the legal consequences of violating that ban?

Truck drivers who are caught violating the provisions of the law are subject to the following:

  • Federal fines of up to $2,750 for each offense
  • Suspension of their CDL after multiple offenses
  • Suspension of their CDL after two or more serious traffic violations

Commercial vehicle companies also face repercussions for violations of the above law. Companies that allow their drivers to use handheld cell phones while driving are subject to fines of up to $11,000.

FMCSA Distracted driving

FMCSA Distracted Driving Prevention Tips

Commercial drivers who text while driving are 23.2 times more likely to be in a dangerous situation, whether that is an accident or a close call, when compared to drivers who do not. FMSCA rules prohibit drivers from sending an email, pressing more than one button to use a voice assistant, reaching for a device or holding a phone while driving. Regulations apply to CDL drivers when driving on a roadway or when the vehicle is stationary because of traffic of temporary delays.

To keep attention on the road and to be compliant with the law, CDL drivers should:

  • Make sure that a phone is in close enough proximity to use while the driver is safely buckled in with his or her seat belt.
  • Utilize the speaker function or an earbud.
  • Use voice commands to gather any needed information.
  • Place the phone so that hands-free features can be used and the driver does not have to do anything more than press a single button.

Over 70% of accidents involving large trucks occurred while the truck driver was engaged in an activity other than driving. To avoid these preventable crashes, FMCSA issued the following tips for commercial drivers:

  • Avoid letting any objects which are outside your truck distract you from the task at hand. This might mean ignoring buildings, billboards and people in your peripheral vision. Even mirrors and parts of a truck can be distracting, so making any needed adjustments before you get on the road can help make for a safer trip.
  • Refrain from texting while driving your commercial vehicle. FMCSA regulations were first put in place after troubling statistics were released in a 2009 study on driver distraction in the trucking industry. President Obama found the research so convincing that he later issued an executive order to ban federal employees from texting while driving while on government business. To avoid temptation, truckers can put phones on silent or turn them off completely while driving.
  • Do not use a portable data terminal while driving. Dispatching devices can allow a truck driver to communicate, maintain logs and help navigate. However, these devices take a driver’s eyes off the road, just like texting. In fact, one study showed that CDL drivers were nine times as likely to be put in a dangerous position while using a dispatching device.
  • Hold off on dialing a phone while you are driving. Finding and entering in a phone number takes your eyes off the road for a long enough period to have a crash. In fact, a recent study showed that dialing while driving increased the chance of a near collision or an actual wreck by three times. If you must make a call, pull over and keep your phone call brief. In situations where you need to make a call, use a voice assistant to make the call for you from your contacts.
  • Abstain from writing, reading or using a paper map while driving. As with dialing a phone, a driver can take his or her eyes off the road long enough to cause an accident while doing these activities. Most trucks are equipped with GPS systems, which can help with navigation and help you keep safe, provided you enter your destination into the device before you begin driving.
  • Skip food and drink while you are driving. In most cases, eating or drinking takes one of your hands off the wheel, making you more vulnerable to putting yourself in an unsafe situation. Eating can be even riskier than talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel. To be safe, truckers can either pull completely off the roadway to eat or drink or have a meal before they get into their truck.

Victims of Truck Accidents Can Count on Slack Davis Sanger For Compassionate Counsel

If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident with a CDL truck driver, you may have experienced serious injury or even tragic loss of life of a loved one. Even in the best-case scenario, commercial truck accidents can result in compounding effects such as mounting medical bills, lost wages due to time off work and added expense and insurance hassles related to repairing or replacing your vehicle. That’s where the experienced attorneys at Slack Davis Sanger can help. Our lawyers are authorities on personal injury and wrongful death cases related to large truck accidents, and our track record shows we are a leader in advocating for improved passenger safety. You are entitled to receive fair compensation, and we can help secure it for you. Contact us for a free consultation.