A common cause for concern on highways throughout Georgia is drivers who are not paying attention to the road. Vehicles can become hazards by virtue of distracted drivers, drowsy drivers or drivers impaired by drugs, alcohol or prescription medication. Unfortunately, due to their size and speed, an 18-wheeler piloted by a distracted driver can cause devastating property damage and catastrophic injuries.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) often provides tips and recommendations to truck drivers to keep them safe on the road. Commonly, they cite a comprehensive study published in 2009 that found that 71% of large truck crashes occurred as a result of a distracted truck driver. The distractions can come in numerous forms, including:
- Texting while driving: While this activity is considered illegal across much of the country, it continues to be a problem. As professional drivers, truckers might believe they have the skills necessary to safely drive while multitasking, but the act of texting forces manual, visual and cognitive distractions all at the same time.
- Phone conversations: Like texting, many regions do not allow hand-held phones to be used by drivers. Unfortunately, even a hands-free call can be dangerous as this type of cognitive distraction takes the driver’s attention and focus from the task at hand.
- Dining and driving: Even though mandatory rest periods are regulated, truckers might attempt to stay on a tight schedule by eating or drinking while on the road. From a travel mug filled to the brim with coffee to a bag of chips resting on the center console, dining and driving can be a serious distraction. Not only does this activity require the hands to be taken off the steering wheel, but the focus is removed from the road and the eyes often drift to the food or drink.
- Outside the cab distractions: These distractions are so commonplace that drivers might not even recognize them. Reading electronic billboards, for example, or looking at a large-scale construction project while driving past might seem like momentary lapses, but these brief distractions take your eyes and attention from the road. When traveling at highways speeds, it can represent a deadly hazard.
Truckers are behind the wheel for long stretches of time and hundreds or thousands of miles. They often try to pass this time by having conversations, listening to audiobooks or eating while behind the wheel. Unfortunately, as necessary as these tasks might feel, they all represent significant distractions and the potential for serious vehicle collisions.