Distracted Driving: A Growing Issue

We all know that hand-held mobile devices can be the biggest cause of driver distraction. But, did you know that there are many other things going on in the cab that can also distract truckers from keeping their eyes on the road? In this post we will take a look at the growing issue of distracted driving.

A San Diego-based company that specializes in video driver safety technology recently released figures that show a whole range of activities that can easily cause truck driver distraction. The company, Lytx Inc., uses in-cab video and audio systems to deliver driver safety and predictive analytics to fleets. Their program captures video and audio inside and outside of the vehicle and uploads data to a review center, where it is analyzed.

According to figures from the first four months of 2015, hands-free phones caused 32% of distraction events, while hand-held devices caused 27%. Eating and drinking accounted for 20%, while outside distractions (11%), computers/TVs (10%) and passengers (1%) accounted for the remainder of the recorded incidents.

Greg Lund, director of corporate relations for Lytx, said that the data shows a marked increase over last year of incidents involving hands-free devices, which are often thought to be safer than hand-held phones. Meanwhile, the number of incidents involving hand-held devices was virtually unchanged from year to year. “Using a hand-held cellular device makes you 4.7 times more likely to be in a collision than not using one,” Lund said. “Using a hands-free device is nearly as risky — 4.6 times more likely to be in a collision.”

The National Safety Council (NSC) says that motorists who believe a hands-free phone is safer are wrong, pointing to more than two dozen studies that confirm hands-free devices are equally as dangerous to distracted driving as their hand-held counterpart. The council says that the human brain remains distracted by the conversation on the phone, whether it’s being held up to the ear or the conversation is taking place on a speaker.

Researcher’s estimate that drivers can miss up to 50% of what’s happening around them (such as traffic lights, stop signs, pedestrians) when talking on a cell phone and driving.

Lund says that the smartphones, tablets and computers can all provide real benefits to drivers, but they need to be used properly. Bridget Bradshaw, marketing manager for NationaLease, one of the largest truck leasing companies, agrees that the technology needs to take a back seat to safety and distracted driving. “And it’s not just about texting and cell phones,” said Bradshaw. “It can be focusing on the navigation system instead of the road ahead or unwrapping that burger to take a bite. No matter the reason, taking your eyes off the road for just a few seconds can spell the difference between a safe drive and a disaster.”

Bradshaw suggests these safety tips to avoid driver distraction:

  • Focus: Keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road constantly.
  • Dump the devices: Put away the cell phones, the iPods, and the tablets while you’re driving. If you must engage with these devices, pull over to the side of the road.
  • Plan ahead: Make sure you plan your trip ahead of time so you’re not staring at a navigation screen instead of the highway.
  • Wait: Check your messages and return calls during your next fuel stop.

NSC’ RoadForce Driver’s Division has incorporated the JJ Keller Safety Program to help remind our drivers about the importance of safe driving habits and NSC has each driver sign a No Cell Phone/Texting policy.

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