In 2017 alone, distracted driving accounts for 3,166 deaths, according to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). It is a dangerous activity, yet many drivers do not take it very seriously.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is when you are doing any activity that diverts your attention on the road, putting you at risk of crashing. This may include texting or talking on the phone, drinking, eating, talking with your passengers, and fiddling with your vehicle’s navigation or entertainment system. These distractions can be grouped in three categories:
Visual – taking your eyes off the road
Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
Cognitive – taking your mind off driving
Among the activities that can distract you from driving, the use of a mobile phone is considered one of the most dangerous as it combines the three types of distractions. In a research commissioned by FMCSA, it shows that the possibility of getting involved in a critical event such as a crash, near-crash, unintentional lane deviation is 6 times higher for CMV drivers who engage in dialing a mobile phone while driving, compared to those who do not. Dialing will take your eyes off the road for an average of 3.8 seconds. If you are running at 55 mph, this is equivalent to travelling 306 feet (the approximate length of a football field) without looking at the road.
Definition of Using a Mobile Phone
As per FMCSA, the use of a hand-held mobile phone means any of the following:
- The use of at least one hand for holding a phone to make a call
- Dialing by pressing more than a single button
- Reaching for a mobile phone in a way that requires you to maneuver so that you are no longer seated in a driving position and restrained by a seat belt
Distracted Driving Accidents Involving Commercial Vehicles
Accidents caused by distracted driving involving commercial vehicles are still a major problem in many countries. In the US, although there are strict licensing requirements for commercial drivers, accidents still happen because many drivers can’t resist the temptation of using electronic devices while behind the wheel.
Federal Law on Using Hand Held Mobile Devices by Commercial Drivers
There are several state and federal regulations that prohibit distracted driving. Under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), this regulation come into play:
“No driver may use a hand-held mobile telephone or engage in texting while driving a CMV… The only occasion where either is permissible is when drivers are communicating with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.”
In details, these are the regulations:
Title 49, Section 392.80 – Prohibition against texting.
(a) Prohibition. No driver shall engage in texting while driving.
- b) Motor carriers. No motor carrier shall allow or require its drivers to engage in texting while driving.
(c) Definition. For the purpose of this section only, driving means operating a commercial motor vehicle, with the motor running, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays. Driving does not include operating a commercial motor vehicle with or without the motor running when the driver moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway, as defined in 49 CFR 390.5, and halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.
(d) Emergency exception. Texting while driving is permissible by drivers of a commercial motor vehicle when necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services.
Title 49, Section 392.82 – Using a hand-held mobile telephone.
(a)(1) No driver shall use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving a CMV.
(2) No motor carrier shall allow or require its drivers to use a hand-held mobile telephone while driving a CMV.
(b) Definitions. For the purpose of this section only, driving means operating a commercial motor vehicle on a highway, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays. Driving does not include operating a commercial motor vehicle when the driver has moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway and has halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.
(c) Emergency exception. Using a hand-held mobile telephone is permissible by drivers of a CMV when necessary to communicate with law enforcement officials or other emergency services
If not under an emergency situation, drivers of commercial motor vehicle including hotshot truckers may not use a hand-held mobile device or send and read a text message while behind the wheel.
Fine and Penalties
Using a mobile phone while driving has certain fines and penalties as outlined in the FMCSA Fact Sheet.
Fines and Penalties – Penalties for violating the restrictions on the use of mobile phone while driving can be as high as $2,750 for drivers and up to $11,000 for employers who allow drivers to use a hand-held device for communications while driving.
Disqualification – Multiple violations of the prohibition while driving a CMV can result in a driver disqualification by FMCSA. Additionally, for multiple violations of state laws that prohibit the use of a mobile phone while driving a CMV is a serious violation. This could result in a disqualification by a state of drivers required to have a Commercial Drivers License.
Safety Tips to Keep Your Focus on the Road
1. Do not let objects outside of your vehicle distract you
Anything that takes your eye away from the road is a distraction. This includes buildings, billboards and people. Pay attention only to things that are related to traffic signs and driving that will help keep you aware of your surroundings.
2. DO NOT text while driving
Texting while driving is not only illegal but is also a very dangerous proposition. If you must, find a safe parking space before opening your phone to read or send a message.
3. Don’t use a dispatching device
While a dispatching device allows you to communicate with your dispatcher and makes your job easier, it’s also considered a driving distraction which increases your risk of an accident. Many companies already enforce a policy to lock out features while the truck is moving, if you don’t have this policy yet, consider stopping your vehicle first before communicating.
4. No phone calls
If you have to call or receive a call, find a safe place to stop first. Also, keep the call short. In an anticipation of emergency where there’s no place to park and you have to take or make a call, consider having a voice-activated hands-free phone app. These are apps that allow you to make or take a call without requiring you to hold the device.
5. Pull over if you have to use a map
Maps come in handy especially if you are navigating in an unfamiliar place. However, if you have to read a printed direction or write a note to yourself, the safest way to do it is to pull over first.
6. No eating and drinking when driving
Always schedule eating your meal or snacks before getting behind the wheel or when it is time to pull over. Never do it while you are driving.
Driving requires your 100% focus and attention. Any distraction increases your risk of getting involved in an accident. For your safety and the safety of other drivers on the road, avoid distracted driving.