New Program Promotes Safety by Passenger and Commercial Drivers
The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) is launching a new safety initiative this year, designed to increase driver performance through enforcement and education. The initiative seems to come as a result of statistics reported in a 2006 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. That study showed that 69.7 percent of accidents involving commercial vehicles were due to the action of either the truck driver or the passenger car driver. In its 2010 Large Truck Crash Overview, the FMSCA reports 3,675 fatalities from large truck accidents and another 80,000 people suffered injuries as a result of an accident with a large truck. Of those who died or were injured, the majority were passengers or drivers of cars. One of the top five causes of these accidents was driver distraction.
Large truck drivers may be especially tempted to multi-task while on the road. They are highly motivated to get to their destination while making as few stops as possible. This can lead to an increase in using their mobile phone to make calls or text. They may spend more time fiddling with the radio, trying to find a station while driving through multiple broadcast areas, or eating something quick grabbed through the drive through. All of these can increase the chance of an accident. It has been shown that driving while talking on the phone, even if hands-free, impairs a driver’s reaction to the same degree as driving drunk and can quadruple the risk of being in an accident. Even just changing radio stations may have deadly consequences. As reported in the International Business times, a 2009 study found that taking your eyes off the road to fiddle with the radio or check your phone resulted in driving the equivalent of the length of a football field without looking.
While the FMCSA rules prohibit commercial truck drivers from using phones to manually text or make phone calls, it does not prohibit cell phone use completely. If the driver has an ear piece and uses voice-activated methods they can still use the phone for voice calls. Which, as stated above, can be just as distracting as the hand-held method of phone calls. And that’s not to mention all the other distractions that are not prohibited (for example, eating on the road, looking away to tune the radio, or deal with a GPS unit).
What You Can Do to Avoid Accidents
All drivers should strive to avoid or minimize their own distractions while driving. This will give them the best chance to react quickly and safely to changing circumstances on the road. Passenger car drivers should also be cautious when following or passing a commercial vehicle. When passing a commercial vehicle, it’s best to pass on the left, where the truck’s blind spot is smallest. Once past the truck, wait until you can see both headlights in your rearview mirror before moving into the lane in front of the truck.