THE DANGERS OF DISTRACTED DRIVING
Even if you are not a work truck driver, you’ve likely been warned about using your cell phone—especially texting—while operating a vehicle. However, the dangers of driving while distracted take on even greater significance when the vehicle operated is a bigger work truck or van or a Class 7/8 workhorse. This is not news to commercial drivers as 93 percent believe that reading a text while driving is a distraction. So how many drivers read and send texts?
SHOW ME THE NUMBERS
With such a high majority of commercial drivers saying that texting is a dangerous distraction, you would hope that no work truck drivers are using their phones while driving. Unfortunately, according to a new study, 47 percent of commercial drivers have read texts, and 39 percent have sent texts while driving. But distracted driving is not limited to texting, as 60 percent of commercial drivers have answered a phone call while driving, and 90 percent have engaged in other distracting activities such as changing the radio or adjusting other in-cab controls.
Cell phones contribute so much to the modern world—like helping truckers stay connected to loved ones while on the road—that it can be difficult to remember they also make some situations worse or even dangerous. Additional research by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute confirms the dangers of distracted driving, finding that drivers are six times more likely to crash while dialing a call and 22 times more likely to crash while texting. In fact, a 2009 study by the FMCSA found that 71 percent of large-truck crashes occurred when the driver was focusing on something other than operating the vehicle.
Again, you may not be surprised that 72 percent of commercial drivers acknowledge their distracted driving could cause a collision. So what can be done? The FMCSA—which prohibits handheld mobile phone use by commercial drivers including reaching for, holding, reading, dialing, or texting on the phone—offers the following tips for commercial truckers while driving:
- Do not let objects outside the truck distract you, including billboards and buildings.
- Do not text or dial a phone—doing so takes your eyes, hands, and mind off the road.
- Do not eat (a recent NHSTA study found eating to be riskier than talking on a cell phone).
- Do not use a dispatching device.
- Do not read, write, or use paper maps.
Penalties for driving while distracted include fines and, upon multiple violations, disqualification or being put out-of-service. Meanwhile, an employer who knowingly allows or requires handheld device use can also be fined and may have their Safety Measurement System rating negatively affected.
Before you curse technology, however, new innovations are also used to limit distracted driving. Commercial drivers are four times more likely than general drivers to use distraction-prevention apps, which limit smartphone functionality while driving and can even send automated return texts to notify others that you are driving and will get back to them later.
Hands-free options for cell phones and for dispatch devices, which require no more than a single push of a button, are also increasingly available. However, we do not recommend using any talk-to-text features, as a recent AAA study found that talk-to-text systems are more cognitively distracting than any other form of distraction.
If you drive for a living, we’re so appreciative of the hard work you do, and we hope you stay safe doing it. But before you hit the road again, it’s helpful to review FMCSA’s tips to prevent distractions as well as consider technological innovations that help limit distracted driving such as distraction-prevention apps.
Remember: Safety is key.
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MODERN WORKTRUCK SOLUTIONS: JULY 2019 ISSUE
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