Friday, July 5, 2013

Driving Distractions

Safety Management Services Company’s Accident Countermeasures Program

Safety Management Services Company’s Accident Countermeasures program was created to provide a way for our company and our most important asset, the drivers, to cover important safety topics in a meaningful and accessible manner. 

Driving Distractions

The list of driving distractions that contributes to crashes and injuries is long. Driving is a serious responsibility; it demands and deserves your full, undivided attention. What is a distraction? It’s anything that takes your hands, eyes, or attention away from driving. It could be a billboard, a passenger in your truck, something going on outside your truck, or even something as simple as trying to set the speed of your windshield wipers. Of course, you have to occasionally glance at your speedometer, fuel and other gauges. But actions like changing the radio station, dialing a cell phone, reading a map, or using a navigation system while you’re driving can lead to big trouble. In fact, one recent study showed that driver distractions are a contributing factor in more than eight out of ten accidents. Among the most common driving distractions are:

·         Adjusting the radio, cassette or CD player.
·         Other passengers or drivers in the vehicle.
·         Moving objects in the vehicle.
·         Using/dialing a wireless phone.
·         Eating and drinking while driving.
·         Personal grooming.
·         Adjusting the vehicle’s temperature controls.
·         Smoking while driving.
·         Outside distractions, including:
     - Accidents.
     - Vehicles stopped by police.
     - Friends in other vehicles.
     - Roadside advertising.
     - New construction (shops, restaurants, etc.).

Our goal is to help you recognize driver distractions and give you tips on how you can avoid falling victim to them.

Cell Phones

On January 26, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced federal guidance that prohibits commercial truck and bus drivers from texting while driving. Drivers who violate this federal regulation are subject to a civil and/or criminal penalty of up to $2,750. In other words, the enforcement community is taking the problem of distracted driving very seriously.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has been the leader in conducting comprehensive research on the topic of distracted driving and the commercial driver. Their findings indicate that a commercial driver who is texting has the highest risk of being involved in a crash due to distracted driving, which was 23.2 times greater as the driver has his/her eyes off the road on average of six-second intervals. At 55 mph, this means the tractor/trailer is traveling the length of a football field without looking at the roadway. Virginia Tech also found that simply dialing a cell phone causes a driver to be nearly 6 times more likely to be involved in a crash, while simply reaching for something in the truck cab is even higher at 6.7 times more likely for crash involvement than a non-distracted driver.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration in early 2011 has issued a proposal, which essentially states that a commercial driver will only be able to use a hands-free cell phone while driving. The proposed civil fine could go up to $2,750 and the trucking company that requires or allows drivers to use hand-held phones could face a maximum penalty of $11,000 for violations.

Eating and Drinking

From breakfast burritos to burgers and fries, eating on the run has turned into an everyday part of our lives. Who hasn’t done it? French fries on your lap, a drink in one hand and a sandwich in the other while your knees do the steering. Eating while driving is not only dangerous, it’s messy, and fumbling with napkins, condiments, wrappers, and beverages means you’re not watching the road. Here are a few ways you can concentrate more on the road than on your burger:
·         Allow yourself time to stop for a bite to eat.
·         If you’re part of a team, take turns driving and eating.

Knobs and other Distractions

Radio station buttons, CD and radio controls, volume, balance and fade, A/C and heat knobs, fan speed, and cruise control are just some of the knobs, switches, buttons, and controls you can adjust, switch on or off, and turn up or down while driving. All of them help make travel more comfortable. You may think all the adjusting and changing is routine – after all, you’ve been doing it since you got your license. But inserting a CD or searching for a radio station makes you six times more likely to be involved in an accident than glancing at the fuel gauge or speedometer.

Don’t Let Technology Take a Toll

Some technology – like anti-lock brakes and traction control – has helped make driving safer. Other new technology, though, can cause you to take your mind and eyes off the road. There’s a whole new generation of in-vehicle electronic gadgets designed to make life in the vehicle more convenient and more comfortable. Wireless phones, Qualcomm and PeopleNet systems, mobile internet, and tablet PCs all fall into this category, and many newer vehicles even have on-board navigation and rollover stability systems. But as communication and navigation technology becomes more and more common in vehicles, companies and even local and state governments are taking steps to increase safety. Some systems cannot be programmed while the vehicle is in motion.

If you’re driving 60 mph, and look down for just two seconds to choose a CD or adjust the climate controls, you’ll have blindly traveled 176 feet. That’s more than half the length of a football field! Try these tips to help keep your attention on the road:

·         If you have a passenger or are part of a driving team, ask the other person to reach across and change the radio or climate controls for you.
·         Take advantage of normal stops to adjust controls.
·         With more complex devices such as GPS and navigation systems, you should take the time to stop in a safe place before giving them your attention.

Pets and Passengers

It’s hard enough concentrating on the road without the distraction of pets and passengers, and adding in just one of those factors can make driving dangerous. There are ways you can avoid driving distractions within your own vehicle:

·         If your company allows pets, use a pet carrier or portable kennel to limit a pet’s ability to roam.
·         Avoid arguments and minimize distracting conversations while driving with passengers or other drivers.

Outside Distractions

It’s just human nature to “get a good look” at the scene of an accident or at cars that have been stopped by police. The urge can be almost overwhelming. The best advice is don’t do it! Those things are never more important than staying focused on driving. Remember, letting your concentration be diverted by these common driving distractions can be deadly:

·         Roadside activities such as accidents or vehicles stopped by police.
·         Friends in other vehicles.
·         Roadside advertising.
·         Construction areas.
·         Scenic views.

Other Driver Distractions

As you know, there are all kinds of other distractions that take your attention away from driving. How many times have you seen people putting on make-up, styling their hair or shaving while driving? How about people reading maps or directions, a newspaper, or even a book? We all know smoking is hazardous enough, but lighting up, putting out cigarettes, or dealing with falling ashes while driving can be deadly. The safe solution is simple – never do any of these things while you're driving.

The Importance of Keeping Your Concentration

Are you always prepared to avoid a car swerving in front of you? How about braking for a pedestrian who suddenly steps into your path? Can you safely steer clear of debris falling from a truck? Stay focused. Pay attention, expect the unexpected, and follow these simple tips to help you, and others, stay alive:
·         Always be sure you are properly buckled up.
·         Get plenty of sleep, never drive while drowsy.
·         Avoid aggressive drivers.
·         Do not tailgate.



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