A new device from a tech start-up in Virginia is designed to prevent manual texting while driving, and trucking companies have started placing orders in large numbers. The device, called the OrigoSafe, docks in to the cab of a semi-truck (or any other motor vehicle) and only allows the cell phone to be used through Bluetooth. Truck accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm are hopeful that this new technology will save lives and reduce serious injuries on American roadways.
On its website, Origo outlined its solution to texting while driving and the devastating consequences it has on American lives. It touts OrigoSafe as a simple, fully-integrated, and hands-free solution to this immediate safety issue. The device still allows drivers to use their cellphones (given they already have hands-free capabilities), using Bluetooth, so drivers can still be productive and available to friends, family and coworkers while on the job.
Due to their large size and heavy cargo, trucks cause extreme amounts of damage when involved in accidents, and crashes can easily become catastrophic for passengers in smaller cars. An estimated 6,000 people die on U.S. roadways ever year in trucking accidents and another half a million are seriously injured. With the popularization of cell phones and texting, the threat of truckers using technology on the road is alarming to say the least. Experts estimate that truckers who text while driving have over 23% increased risk of crashing.
For trucking companies, the monetary losses associated with truck crashes can be devastating as well, particularly if the driver was at-fault due to texting or surfing the web. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the total estimated cost of crashes caused by cell phones is over $50 billion per year. For trucking companies, the average cost of an accident that causes a fatality is $3.8 million per fatality.
The OrigoSafe works much like the Breathalyzer ignition interlocks that are often required for repeated drunk drivers. The device is installed into a vehicle’s cab, where the cell phone must be mounted before the vehicle can start. Once it is mounted in the device, drivers may not use any manual functions on the cell phone until the truck is safely parked or turned off.
Bluetooth Does not Guarantee Safety
Although this is a step in the right direction, hands-free texting is not a completely safe alternative. In 2010, for example, a driver was on a cell phone using Bluetooth, which was permissible within her company. The driver was nonetheless distracted by the conversation, struck another vehicle and critically injured the driver. The injured driver subsequently sued the trucker and her company, and the jury ruled the company should pay $21 million in damages.
Of course, every case is different, and jury decisions like this are extremely idiosyncratic. This case does illustrate a larger point, however: any distraction, regardless of its mode or medium, is still a distraction. Several studies have proven this to be true, yet legislators throughout the country continue to enact laws that ban only manual cell phone use. All cell phone use, including the use of Bluetooth and other hands-free technologies, need to be banned before our roads can become any safer.
That being said, attempts by state and local lawmakers are admirable and a step in the right direction. Change does not occur overnight, and it will take many more studies and, unfortunately, many more catastrophic crashes to alter public perception of cell phone usage while driving.
Though using a cell phone while driving a truck is now federally banned (per a new law by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), many truckers and bus drivers are unaware of the actual penalties they face if caught. Should a driver be caught using a cell phone while driving, the individual driver is liable for a civil fine of up to $2,750, and their employer can be fined for up to $11,000. The violation would also negatively impact their Safety Measurement System ratings, and, if multiple violations occur, the driver’s license can be suspended for up to 120 days.
Our team of truck crash injury lawyers is currently investigating cases of severe injury and death from trucking accidents. We sincerely hope that this new Origo system will help reduce accidents on the road and lead to safer, more enjoyable working days for truckers throughout the country. If you or a love one was hospitalized after a crash caused by the negligence of another driver, contact our firm immediately. We can help you pay your medical bills and get compensation for your lost wages and pain and suffering. Our legal advice is always free of charge and available to potential clients in all 50 states.