‘Hear me now?’
DOT turned up the volume on distracted driving in December
In the wake of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s new rule prohibiting use of handheld cell phones by interstate haulers while driving, several readers sounded off. Nabisco company driver Buddy Wenners recommended regulators save all the wasted time and effort writing new rules that chip away at driver discretion: “Just make truck driving illegal!” he wrote.
That prompted Nebraska-based hauler “Big Al” Weekley, the personality behind the Dispatch Me Home Radio Network (http://www.dispatchmehomeradio.com), to follow up with a less sarcastic recommendation to let the regulators deal with the aftermath.
“I truly feel that the best way to accomplish any real change is to just let them pass all the laws and make all the bad decisions they want to,” he wrote. “Once they get all of this out of their system,… they’ll find themselves looking for a pen, a piece of paper, maybe something to eat, or even their toilet paper,” he added. When they “can’t find any, our point will have been made.”
Other reactions ranged from muted support to the most common theme — that the safety problem handheld cell phones represent has long been appreciated by the nation’s haulers. Any outright ban on handheld use might be most effective via an act of Congress aimed at all drivers. Address the widespread problem of inattention among four-wheeled pilots, truckers said. Only 10 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington) and Washington, D.C. have banned handheld phone use for all drivers.
Two weeks later the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that all personal electronic devices be banned from use while driving by everyone in all 50 states and D.C. (except in emergency situations and unless they aid the driving task), handheld or not.
Zoomsafer, maker of systems and software for fleets to mitigate against phone use in vehicles, commented on the problem of enforcing such a ban. The company pitched its technology as a solution, but noted these problems: 1) “Bans alone don’t work” (and in some instances may be a detriment to safety as drivers try to use the phone surreptitiously, misplacing attention). 2) “Bans are difficult and expensive to enforce.” 3) “Ignoring bans is easy for drivers to rationalize” especially those addicted to their mobile phones.
And as any smoker who’s tried one of those nicotine-replacement strategies to quit smoking knows, they’re only effective for someone who really wants to break the habit. No single external measure is incentive enough. What it takes is the inner will to stop — a tall order for a nation of 200 million licensed drivers.
| All quiet | Before the official end of the withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq in late December, an 1,100-mile convoy for haulers from the Air Force’s 70th Medium Truck Detachment typically consisted of six nights’ worth of hauling on city roads and highways. Every inch of every mile was “possibly hiding a bullet, roadside bomb or rock,” Air Force reps say. And the year ended with plenty of miles. After averaging 11 convoys a month last January, the 70th anticipated as many as 60 missions in December to meet the year-end withdrawal deadline. For a fantastic look at year-end hauling missions, check out the photo gallery in the Dec. 1 entry on the Channel 19 blog: http://www.overdriveonline.com/channel19.