Restating the Obvious

Texting while driving is a stupid and deadely distraction

Truckers see all kinds of stuff other drivers do while driving. Motorists having an exaggerated conversation on their cell phones. Reading a book. Putting on makeup. Acts too lewd to mention here.

But one distracting task is quickly becoming all too commonplace, even among some truckers, who normally are the ones complaining the most about distracted drivers – reading and/or writing text messages while behind the wheel.

A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute research study recently released by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that truckers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to have a crash or a near-crash than a non-distracted driver. In comparison, the risk of a crash while driving under the influence of alcohol is about seven times as high as with an unimpaired driver.

The study analyzed the driving behavior of 203 truck drivers who traveled about 3 million miles equipped with in-cab cameras and other sensors. The truckers averaged almost five seconds at a time with their eyes off the road while texting. At 55 miles per hour, the truck would have traveled the length of a football field during that time.

According to an article, VTTI did not provide a comparison for texting while driving for passenger car drivers but did compare truck and passenger vehicles driving on other tasks for risk of crash or a near-crash situation. It found that:

·Truckers were nearly six times more likely to be at risk while dialing a cell phone, while a passenger vehicle operator was nearly three times as likely.

·Truckers were nearly seven times as likely to be at risk when reaching for an electronic device, but passenger vehicle operators were 1.4 times as risky.

·Talking or listening increased risk much less for four-wheelers and not at all for truckers.
To be fair, texting is not a trucking issue – it’s a highway safety issue that encompasses a growing population of texters that range from teen drivers to soccer moms to white-collar businesspeople. We are hearing of more and more accidents caused by people texting while driving. But for some reason, while we all see it as a real threat to safety, we think as an individual we can handle doing it.

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So far 14 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws banning texting while driving, and there is a push to make it a federal law.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has announced his department will convene a summit in Washington, D.C., this month to discuss causes and solutions for distracted driving. It is supported by such trucking groups as the American Trucking Associations.

One problem with any law banning texting is that it’s not a proven deterrent. Enforcement of the laws has a host of problems including privacy issues. Mostly they serve to bring awareness to the problem and as basis for punishment after a tragic event.

We encourage all drivers to use common sense while driving. Let’s get back to the old rule that started in driver’s education when we were getting our first driver’s license – “always keep your eyes on the road.” You can’t do that if you’re writing and reading a message that can wait until you’ve safely pulled off the road. This is no LOL matter.

Trucker Wannabes Create Driver Surplus
With the economy stagnant, one phrase often associated with the trucking industry has all but disappeared from headlines – driver shortage. Definitely not a good thing, because it’s an indication of how slow freight is currently in some segments.

What’s interesting is how many people have rushed to the trucking industry in search of a new career. Trucking schools are doing a boom business with some reporting more than 50-percent increases over previous years.

A Georgia newspaper recently reported on a growing number of college graduates who are flocking to truck-driving schools in hopes of employment. The upside of this is people realize that trucking, while slow at the moment, is a resilient industry that is still moving. The real question is how many of these wannabes will stay when the economy returns to full strength. Probably not enough to keep the term driver shortage from re-emerging. And that’s actually good news for drivers.