Driver Distraction (CMV)

Driver Distraction

Driver distraction is the diversion of attention from activities critical for safe driving to a competing activity. Driver distraction increases your risk of getting into a crash.

Distractions can come from both inside and outside of your truck cab. Distractions inside of your cab can include dialing cell phones, texting, using dispatching devices, eating, reading, or adjusting the radio. Distractions outside of your cab can include looking at a passing building, billboard, or person. One way to think about distraction is to ask yourself if something is drawing your attention and taking your eyes away from the road ahead of you. If the answer is “yes,” it is probably a distraction.

A 2009 study found that 71 percent of large-truck crashes occurred when the truck driver was doing something besides driving the truck.82 Staying focused on driving can help keep you, and other road users, safe on the road!

Below are some tips that will help you stay focused on the road ahead and can help make you a safer driver.


TIP #1: Do Not Let Objects Outside of Your Truck Distract You

When driving, stay focused on the job of driving your truck. You should avoid focusing on things outside of your truck that aren’t related to driving. This includes things like billboards, buildings, and people. Remember, anything taking your eyes away from driving is a distraction and can be dangerous. Paying attention only to things that are related to driving will help keep you aware of the road and cars around you, and will help make sure you are ready to react to anything unexpected.

Did You Know? A 2006 study found that driver inattention was the leading factor in crashes and near-crashes. The study found that nearly 80 percent of crashes involved some form of driver inattention in the 3 seconds before the crash or near-crash.14

Did You Know? A three-year data collection effort by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that an estimated 11,000 truck crashes nationwide involved distractions external to the truck cab.20

Did You Know? Billboards and other advertisements near the road are meant to get your attention. However, anything that takes your eyes off the road ahead can be a distraction. Aim to minimize the amount of time you spend looking at these objects.

An example of a driver distracted by something outside of the truck is shown in the video clip below. Training exercise questions follow the video clip.

 

VIDEO DESCRIPTION: The truck driver is in the right lane of a two-lane highway on wet pavement during the day. The driver becomes distracted with something out his right window. Traffic begins to slow ahead of him. The driver returns his attention to the forward roadway and has to brake quickly and move into the left lane.

TRAINING EXERCISE: After viewing the video, try to answer the following questions:

  • Was the driver aware of the road in front of him and the traffic around him?
  • What was the result of the driver’s inattention?
  • Would the driver know if there were any vehicles in the adjacent left lane?
  • What could the driver have done differently?

TIP #2: Do Not Text While Driving

Texting while driving is illegal for CMV drivers.83 Texting is an easy way to keep in touch with people. Yet, texting can also be one of the most dangerous distractions in your truck. Texting takes your eyes, hands, and mind off the job of driving. In order to read or send a text message, you must look at the phone. This takes your eyes off the road. You must use the buttons on the phone to open or write a message, which takes at least one hand off the steering wheel. You must read or think about what you are going to write, which takes your mind off the road.

Did You Know? A 2009 study of real-world driving found that text messaging while driving increased a driver’s chances of being involved in a safety-critical event by 23 times. This study found that, in the moments before a safety-critical event, drivers who were texting while driving spent nearly 5 seconds looking at their phone.82

Did You Know? Based largely on a 2009 landmark study of driver distraction in trucking, FMCSA banned texting while driving for commercial drivers.82,83 This study was so compelling that President Obama issued Executive Order 13513, banning all federal employees from texting while driving on government business.

Did You Know? If you are driving at 55 mph and take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds to write a text message, you have traveled the length of a football field (end zones included) without looking at the road.

An example of a driver distracted by sending a text message is shown in the video clip below. Training exercise questions follow the video clip.

VIDEO DESCRIPTION: The CMV driver is traveling on a two-lane highway during the day. The roadway curves to the left. The driver is distracted by his phone and fails to notice the car turning across his lane. He looks up from his phone at the last moment, and manages to avoid a head-on collision with the car by driving onto the shoulder.

TRAINING EXERCISE: After viewing the video, try to answer the following questions:

  • What shows that the driver was distracted by the cell phone?
  • How far did the driver travel without looking at the road?
  • How long were the driver’s eyes on the phone versus on the road?
  • Would having his eyes on the forward roadway have allowed him to handle the situation differently?

TIP #3: Do Not Use a Dispatching Device While Driving

Dispatching devices let you and your dispatchers communicate, can help you navigate, and can help keep your logs. These devices are sometimes called mobile or portable data terminals and can help make your job easier. Although a message on the dispatching device might seem urgent, using a dispatching device while driving can be dangerous. This is because the dispatching device can take your eyes, hands, and mind away from driving safely. Since using a dispatching device while driving raises your risk of a crash, many companies have policies in place or lock out features when the truck is moving. Using a dispatching device is “texting for truckers.”

Did You Know? A 2009 study of real-world driving found that using a dispatching device while driving increased a driver’s chances of being involved in a safety-critical event by 9 times.82

Did You Know? Companies are working on building better dispatching devices. Some dispatching devices are easier to use, allowing you to respond to messages without looking at the screen, and read messages aloud. This can help you keep your eyes on the road.


TIP #4: Do Not Dial a Handheld Phone While Driving

Handheld cell phones involve multiple types of distractions and using them while driving is illegal for CMV drivers.83 Handheld phones can take your eyes and hands away from driving. Dialing a handheld cell phone requires you to take your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel.58 If you have to make a call while driving, find a safe place to stop and keep your call short.44 Or, consider a voice-activated hands-free phone or phone app. Phones that do not require you to hold them while dialing a number or talking can help keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. Most smartphones either have this hands-free ability or have apps available to provide it.

Did You Know? A 2010 study of real-world driving found that dialing a handheld cell phone while driving increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by 3 times.84

A 2011 study found that drivers who were dialing a handheld cell phone made more frequent and larger steering corrections than drivers who were only talking on the phone.84

An example of a driver distracted by a cell phone is shown in the video clip below. Training exercise questions follow the video clip.

VIDEO DESCRIPTION: The CMV driver is traveling in the far right lane of a multi-lane highway during the day. The roadway curves to the left. The driver is distracted by his cell phone and his tire catches the road edge. He tries to correct with steering, but slides the truck and narrowly misses colliding with an oncoming car. His truck flips.

TRAINING EXERCISE: After viewing the video, try to answer the following questions:

  • What shows that the driver was distracted by the cell phone?
  • What happened when the driver was dialing his phone?
  • When were the driver’s eyes off the road?
  • What does this tell you about the driver’s attention while driving?

TIP #5: Do Not Read, Write, or Use Paper Maps While Driving

Printed directions, notes to yourself, and maps are a normal part of your job. However, reading or writing while you are driving is a much bigger risk than you might think. Reading a map while driving increases your risk of being in a crash. This is because both reading and writing take your eyes off the road ahead of you. If you need to read something or write yourself a note, the safest thing to do is pull over. Never read, even a map, or write while you are driving!

Did You Know? A 2009 study of real-world driving found that writing while driving increased a driver’s chance of being involved in a safety-critical event by 8 times. The study also found that reading a map while driving increased the chances of being in a safety-critical event by 7 times.82

Did You Know? GPS units are much safer to use while driving as compared to maps, as long as you are not trying to enter information into the unit while driving. However, studies have shown that using these kinds of systems can still take your eyes off the road.84 Therefore, never try to enter information into a GPS unit while driving!

Did You Know? Many newer GPS units allow you to enter an address with your voice only. These voice-activated units help you keep your eyes on the road while still allowing you to get route information.


TIP #6: Avoid Eating and Drinking When Driving

Sometimes you may feel like driving is the only time you have to eat or drink. But you may not realize that eating while driving can be dangerous.72 Eating while driving can take your eyes off the road. It always takes at least one of your hands off the wheel. Always try to eat or drink before getting behind the wheel or leave time to pull over and eat.

Did You Know? A survey of all types of drivers found that 49 percent of drivers believed eating or drinking while driving could be a distraction.73

Did You Know? A recent study found that eating while driving was riskier than talking on a cell phone.74

Did You Know? On May 23, 2008, a 51-year-old CMV driver crashed into the back of a stopped school bus, which was letting children out, on Highway 50 in western Kenosha County, Wisconsin. The CMV driver was distracted by drinking a soda and did not see the school bus, which was stopped with its lights flashing and its stop-arm extended. After the crash, 14 children had to be taken to area hospitals, 4 of them with serious injuries. The CMV driver was transported to a hospital in critical condition.75,76 This crash may have been prevented if the CMV driver was not distracted by drinking the soda and was paying full attention to the road ahead.

This post was taken from the FMCSA website, a link can be found here. It was through the CMV Driving Tips that this post was created.