Distracted driving continues to rank among the primary causes for truck and automobile accidents year after year. While “distracted driving” has become an umbrella term to identify passenger vehicle and truck drivers who are not focused on the road, texting and driving tends to be the worst offender. That’s largely due to the fact that texting and driving involves all three types of distraction.
According to resources such as the CDC, driver distraction types fall under visual, cognitive, or manual headings. When a motor vehicle operator uses a cell phone or other device, they are engaged in all three simultaneously. You hold it manually, your cognitive powers stray to the use, and you have to look at the keypad to type the letters. Texting and driving has disastrous consequences and should be avoided 100 percent of the time.
How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?
A reported 1,000 roadway crashes and nine fatalities occur in the U.S. on any given day due to distracted driving. While there are other activities that take a driver’s attention from the road ahead, texting is the most common offender. A driver that engages in texting at 55 mph for only 5 seconds could cover the length of a football field before re-acclimating their attention to the road. Obviously, a lot can happen in 100 yards with a fully loaded rig. More than 3,000 people lose their lives, and nearly 400,000 are injured each year due to distracted driving.
What is Being Done About Distracted Driving Dangers?
At least 16 states and the District of Columbia have entirely banned the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving. This trend is being hailed as “hands-free” driving. Additionally, 47 states and D.C. have banned texting while driving, and another pair bar the practice among new license holders.
Some local municipalities have gone as far as to prohibit even talking on a cell phone while driving. This is largely due to the cognitive distraction that results in drivers sometimes swaying from their lane. All of these state laws apply to professional truck drivers as well. At the state level, these are considered to be among the top 10 most stringent laws against texting while driving.
- Indiana: $500 fine
- Louisiana: $500 fine
- North Dakota: $100 fine and 6 points
- Colorado: $300 fine and 4 points
- New York: $200 fine and 5 points
- Alaska: $500 fine and 2 points
- Wisconsin: $400 fine and 4 points
- Illinois: $75 fine and 10 points, with escalating fees for subsequent violations
- Utah: $750 fine and 5 points
- Oregon: $1,000 fine
While state law enforcement is more likely to pull over a trucker for violating its laws against texting while driving, the practice has been banned at the federal level as well. The FMCSA banned texting while driving for commercial drivers in 2010. Research indicates these widespread prohibitions and awareness programs about distracted driving have helped reduce incident rates.
According to a CDC report about data compiled by the NHSTA from 2010-2013, police observed a decline in driver phone use that “fell from 4.1% to 2.7% in California, 6.8% to 2.9% in Connecticut, 4.5% to 3.0% in Delaware, and 3.7% to 2.5% in New York.”
Tips To Avoid Texting While Driving Accidents
While it would be easy to tell truckers to simply stop texting while driving, the lack of connectivity to friends and loved ones prompts everyday people to reach for a cell phone or respond to a text. The underlying idea is that you expect to only do this quickly, and the practice won’t impede the safe operation of an 18-wheeler.
Nothing could be further from the truth, and we all know that deep in our hearts. That’s why it makes sense to have a personal policy in place regarding cell phone and electronic device use. These are some tried-and-true practices that have helped passenger vehicle drivers and CDL professionals alike.
- Emergencies Only: When operating a commercial vehicle, make a pact with yourself that you will only use a cell phone in the event of an emergency. Even hands-free devices and the use of Bluetooth for conversations still results in a level of cognitive distraction. If you need to talk, pull over or wait until your mandated driving break.
- Plan Conversations: Before continuing your driving route, consider contacting friends and loved ones and letting them know when your next schedule work-hour break will occur. Scheduling texting and voice conversations can help avoid impulses on both sides of the line.
- Out of Reach is Out of Mind: By leaving your cell phone in the overnight compartment or another place where you cannot access it without pulling over, you will have created a self-imposed barrier against texting and distracted driving.
- Apply Phone Settings: If you are using the phone as a GPS navigation resource, there are internal settings you can apply to block incoming calls and text messages. Once you stop and release the block, your calls and messages should download promptly, depending on your model and service plan.
The consequences of texting while driving far outweigh any short-term benefit you believe you’re experiencing by sending or reading a message. A moving violation will likely appear as a blemish against your CDL, insurance premiums will increase, and you could be sidelined from your job. Beyond the consequences drivers incur, you would needlessly be putting others at risk. Truck drivers, trucking companies, and the general population must all advocate for safe driving practices that ensure our valuable truckers complete their runs without incident.