Distracted drivers pose a menace to themselves and those sharing the road with them. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2009 almost 5,500 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction. And, a University of Utah research study concluded that using a cell phone – hand-held or hands-free – while driving slows a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent, which is the level at which drivers are considered legally drunk in Missouri.
Most relate distracted driving habits to younger drivers of private vehicles. Distracted drivers of commercial vehicles, however, may pose a much more serious problem as accidents involving construction vehicles, buses and other large, heavy vehicles present a higher probability for fatalities and significant property damage.
Recommendations to Help Eliminate Distractions for Commercial Vehicle Drivers
There have been numerous studies examining the frequency and effects of distracted drivers of light vehicles, i.e., passenger cars and light trucks. But a 2009 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration isolated its research on commercial motor vehicle driver distraction and came up with some interesting conclusions. Based on the heightened risk found for accidents by distracted drivers of commercial vehicles, the study’s recommendations included:
• Better education by fleet managers of their professional drivers as to the dangers of distracting actions behind the wheel.
• Formalized policies by fleet managers to eliminate the use of distracting devices while driving.
• Prohibit commercial drivers from reading or writing and looking at maps while driving. Routine tasks, such as looking at maps, were found to be significantly distracting for commercial drivers.
In September 2010, The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration banned commercial truck and bus drivers from texting while driving. And in February 2011, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration banned texting by drivers operating a motor vehicle containing hazardous materials.