Safety

Truckers need to understand issues surrounding distracted driving

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You’re driving down the freeway at 65 miles per hour when you look down at the driver to your left who is not only passing you at a much higher rate but also appears to be looking at his lap. A little further up the road, you see that this driver is speaking on his phone and apparently not paying much attention to anything but his conversation. Unfortunately, distracted driving on the nation’s roads has risen to epidemic proportions in recent years due to the proliferation of smartphone technology.
National Safety Council data reveals that cell phone usage causes 1.6 million car accidents a year with one in four of all accidents in the United States caused by texting and driving. Likewise, AAA has determined that distracted driving is now the single most dangerous factor on U.S. roads, even more, detrimental than aggressive or drunk driving.
Because of these current conditions, truck drivers need to understand roadway risks and the science behind the distracted driving issue. Generally, distraction occurs in three ways: visual, manual and cognitive.
Obviously, the first two create serious problems, but cognitive distraction can lead impaired drivers to make bad decisions such as suddenly cutting across double lines to gain entrance to an exit they almost missed. Even while a driver’s eyes are focused on the road, if their mind is elsewhere they will make a mistake which could cost lives.
By far, texting is the most dangerous activity by drivers because it creates not only a visual distraction but also manual and cognitive interference as well. Texting can take a driver’s eyes off the road for up to five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that means a driver travels the length of a football field without clearly watching the road.
For many truck drivers, the biggest distraction may be the effects of fatigue on vision, manual dexterity, and cognitive reactions. There’s a very good reason why rules are in place prohibiting drivers from spending too much time behind the wheel. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published certain Hours of Service Regulations which limit property carrying drivers to 11 hours on the road after 10 consecutive hours off duty. Drivers can only operate for 8 hours before they must take at least a 30-minute break, although there are certain exceptions to this rule.
Since it’s imperative that drivers understand the complications stemming from distracted driving, fleets and trucking companies can take a series of measures to help avoid accidents and loss of property. First, companies should establish clear rules and sustainable goals for their drivers. Second, give drivers as much information as possible to judge their cognitive abilities behind the wheel.
Third, drivers need to be well aware of their own weaknesses and the challenges facing other drivers.
Fourth, provide drivers with as much information as possible to keep risks as low as possible. And, finally, give drivers opportunities for meaningful engagement in solving safety and operational reliability issues

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