It’s no surprise that distracted driving is currently at its worst on our nation’s highways. Distracted driving incidents come up every day on the highways and interstates, but now regular occurrences are even in city streets, parking lots and neighborhoods – and April is National Distracted Driving Month!
Just count the times in the last two days you found yourself really frustrated with someone so distracted with some type of electronic device that you would have liked to really awaken them to how soon their lives, the lives of loved ones, or others on the road, could be drastically impacted!
Included (here) is a link to a video I would like you to watch. WARNING: CONTAINS GRAPHIC FOOTAGE. Some may have seen this before. When you watch things like this, distracted driving and fatigue clearly come to mind. This crash changed numerous families’ lives as well as the driver. And it all could have been prevented!
Nowadays, as I find myself with many miles behind a windshield, I look for several things when approaching a tractor trailer – just to test how distracted people in our industry might be. As I approach the tractor trailer I try to stay back a distance to set my pace and check the driver’s speed, the driver’s professionalism and how well they are controlling their vehicle in the conditions around them. There are many that do a fantastic job and make me proud to be a safety advocate of the transportation industry. However, there are staggering percentages on the road today that disappoint me, and make a bad name for the rest of the professional truck drivers who do an excellent job of maintaining safety best practices on the road.
So how do we fix this problem that is taking so many lives each day on our nation’s highways?
I know as you read this article, you are thinking: “I don’t have this problem”. Well, unfortunately we all have this problem. If you really are truthful with yourself and look at the many things we all do while driving a tractor trailer, or even your personal car down the highway, street, or across the parking lot you would scare yourself.
Distractions are everywhere and in every facet of life. Whether it be visual, audible, mental, eating or even emotional distractions. These are the leading distractions in most findings of crashes as we fail to react to our surroundings in a timely manner.
Even more shocking is that many distracted driving accidents were with drivers 40 years of age or older. So we can’t just blame the younger drivers.
Distractions inhibit one’s ability to perceive hazards and react properly in time. The most common distractions for drivers are cell phones, passengers, eating/drinking, day dreaming, and objects outside the vehicle – like road signs. Turning one’s attention away from driving for any of these distractions, even for a few seconds, eliminates the ability to react properly to hazards and can lead to a severe crash.
Stopping distance is calculated by multiplying current speed (MPH) times 1.5. The result is feet traveled per second (FTS). For example, a tractor-trailer traveling at 65 MPH travels approximately 100 feet per second (65 x 1.5 = 97.5 FTS). At this speed, one can travel the length of a football field (300 ft.) in just a few seconds.
A lot of bad things can happen in that time if you are not completely focused on the road ahead and around you. So in this day and time, when we are given all these great electronic tools and devices and our lives have become so busy that we feel forced to accomplish multiple tasks every waking hour, how do we stop this cycle?
By reducing your distractions behind the wheel!
- Plan ahead – You should review your trip in detail before leaving and program your GPS accordingly if you use one. If adjustments are needed in your route, pull off the highway onto an on ramp or lot and enter a new destination, or review your map before resuming your trip. If you are still having trouble call your fleet manager or night/weekend operations and they can assist you in finding what you are looking for! If you own a smart phone install the Google Earth app, but again ONLY use it when stopped.
- Be mentally and emotionally sharp – Get adequate rest before you head out and never rely on caffeine or other energy drinks. Avoid heavy meals and exercise regularly to boost energy and relieve stress. We know family and personal issues are very difficult to leave outside of your truck, but try to leave those to non-driving times. Schedule call times with your family, and should your family call while driving ask them if you can call back at a safer time. We recommend while driving to not answer calls, text or pick up a hand held device for any reason.
- Good rules of thumb to help with self-discipline:
- Keep devices out of reach – out of sight and out of mind keeps the distractions at bay.
- Voicemails are there for a reason – to allow you to call someone back. Most all calls can be returned once you are parked in a safe location.
- Turn on your device auto messaging to “I’m driving right now”.
- Be attentive to the road ahead – Keep your eyes on the road and only make quick glances to mirrors. Do you ever see a quarterback in the middle of a play stare at the side line? Well if they do it only takes one time and that’s when a 380lb linebacker does a ground check on them! Also, when hazards are present, such as bad weather and construction zones, slow down and leave extra distance or find a safe place to park until conditions or traffic around you improves.
We want you back home safely with your family at the end of your trip and enjoying your time with them!
Many of you have worked very hard throughout your career at this point to not have been in/involved in an accident, and at Cline Wood, a Marsh & McLennan Agency, our hats are off to you because you have followed your personal rules and not allowed yourself to get distracted!
So please continue to be safe and don’t let distracted driving destroy the career you’ve worked so hard to achieve!
Good judgment calls and decisions will bring you many safe miles!