“Years ago, when I saw people driving how I’m seeing them drive today, my first thought was, ‘They’re drunk’ . . . Today, you pretty much think, ‘They’re playing with their phone.’”
This is what Herschel Evans, a seasoned Holland truck driver had to say in a recent FleetOwner.com article on distracted driving.
As people have grown more and more connected to mobile phones as part of their daily life, the level of distracted driving seems to have increased over the years. In fact, DOT data shows that in 2015, fatalities on America’s roadways grew by 8%. This is the largest year-over-year increase in half a century — and everything you look at seems to indicate that distracted driving is the culprit.
DOT & Distracted Driving
The U.S. Dept. of Transportation’s (DOT) currently bans texting and hand-held cell phone use while operating commercial motor vehicles, but some trucking companies are taking it a step further. Faced with higher insurance costs and the potential for lawsuits, carriers are wanting to eliminate as many accidents and distractions as possible. They are doing this by banning even hands-free use while driving; though it’s still perfectly legal. The question then becomes, is it necessary to take things this far? And how will commercial drivers react to companies that enact this self-imposed ban?
There’s much discussion that hands-free does not equal safer. Many would say it’s not so much the physical distraction as it is the mental part of it. In other words, just because you have your hands on the wheel doesn’t mean that you mind is there.
The DOT seems to be mostly in favor of these voluntary guidelines for in-vehicle and mobile devices to limit technology’s potential for distraction. They recently proposed a new rule requiring and laying the groundwork for vehicle-to-vehicle, or V2V, safety message communications. This will help vehicles wirelessly communicate things like their speed, direction and coordinates to each other — adding enhanced safety functions like autonomous braking. This could help prevent accidents and save lives long-term.
Solving Technology Problems with Technology
Another possible solution is the implementation of on-board cameras. This allows fleets to monitor activity as it relates to vehicle and driver performance. This allows for web-based coaching to improve things such as distracted or drowsy driving.
The FleetOwner.com article mentions a company implementing driver monitoring across its fleet. The result was finding that even some of the top drivers have work to do when it comes to distracted driving. This impacts not only CDL drivers, but other motorists around. After so long, drivers can only be so lucky and safe driving always wins over lucky driving.
Some feel that distracted driving in the way of using a mobile phone while behind the wheel is still a trend that is in its infatuation stage. The idea here is that eventually enough will be enough and more people will take pride in not using their mobile devices while driving much like people are becoming proud to be a designated driver.
Only time will tell until the question is finally answered – when is enough enough?
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Dickinson Fleet is the nation’s leader in mobile truck maintenance and repair. We currently have 230 mobile trucks equipped with state of the art technology visiting our customers nightly in nearly every major city in the country