Distracted driving is doing any activity that diverts your attention away from the primary task of driving, including texting, eating, reading and adjusting the radio. Anytime you take your eyes off the road or your mind off driving, you are putting yourself and others at risk. According to Distraction.gov, 3,179 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2014.
Some may say looking at a text message or flipping the radio station only takes seconds, and that’s true. However, in the five seconds your eyes are off the road reading the message or adjusting the radio, a vehicle traveling 55 miles per hour travels the length of a football field – and it’s like you were doing it blindfolded! It’s no wonder it was found truck drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a safety-critical event compared to those who don’t text and drive.
Since text messaging takes visual, manual and cognitive attention, it’s one of the most dangerous distractions. Wisconsin laws prohibit texting while driving for people of all ages and ban all cell phone use for novice drivers (those with a learner’s permit or intermediate license) to help prevent the most dangerous driver distractions. Starting October 2016, all drivers, noncommercial and commercial, are prohibited from using handheld devices in construction zones in hopes to cut down on accidents.
Since truck drivers are on the road several hours a week, they usually feel very comfortable driving and may be more tempted to participate in distractions. Wisconsin prohibits texting, but not all states have a ban. However, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations prohibit texting and hand-held mobile phones while operating a commercial motor vehicle used in interstate commerce. Over-the-road drivers must follow FMCSA distracted driving rules no matter if the state they are driving through allows texting or handheld device use while driving.
The FMCSA considers texting, reading, dialing, reaching and holding as distracted driving. Truck drivers caught breaking the FMCSA’s regulations face fines up to $2,750, disqualifications and can even be put out of service. If the driver’s employer knowingly allows (or requires) drivers to use handheld devices (i.g., a mobile phone) while driving, the employer can be fined up to $11,000.
Distracted driving puts everyone at risk. Keep yourself and others safe while driving your truck and keep your phone and any other distractions out of eyesight so they aren’t a temptation. Learn more about the impacts of distracted driving and take the pledge to commit to distraction-free driving here.