There’s no doubt that distracted driving is becoming a bigger and bigger issue these days. Whether it’s texting, pulling up directions on maps, selecting which tunes to listen to, reaching for an item in the car, talking to passengers, unwrapping a drive-through meal, or if it’s simply letting our minds wander — distracting habits in the car or truck are having disastrous effects. And for drivers who are on the road for a living, the opportunity for distracted driving becomes even greater. In this post, we will discuss what distracted driving is, and more importantly, how to avoid it.
What is Distracted Driving?
When many people think about distracted driving, they may automatically think about texting while driving, but being distracted while operating a moving vehicle is much more than just texting. Distractions can come in many forms, and many of them have nothing to do with your phone — reading a billboard on the side of the highway, staring at a really nice car driving in the other lane next to you, having a serious conversation with a passenger, etc.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)
For commercial truck drivers, the FMCSA was established to prevent vehicle-related fatalities and injuries, they enforce regulatory compliance and enforcement, data and analysis, and safety assistance. Here are a few important things truck drivers should know about the FMCSA:
They prohibit the use of mobile devices while driving a commercial vehicle.
Drivers may be fined if caught texting or using a mobile device while driving, unless the device is used for dispatch.
FMCSA regulations apply regardless of the laws in the state that the driver is in.
What is Distracted Driving According to the FMCSA?
The organization has a few simple rules regarding distracted driving:
These simple rules make the responsibilities of drivers clear. In the case of “hands-free” devices, the device must be used with an earpiece-speaker phone, or it can be activated by touching a single button that can be reached from the seat without unnecessary strain.
Penalties For Distracted Driving
Any violations of the regulations are considered “serious traffic violations” and can include fines of up to $2,750, and repeat offenders may be disqualified or taken out of service for up to 120 days. Employers of drivers can also be fined if they allow drivers to use mobile devices while driving.
Other Forms of Distracted Driving
While the FMCSA definition of distraction driving point to the use of mobile devices, there are other ways to be distracted while driving that can be just as dangerous and can often be harder to recognize. Our minds are easily distracted even when we’re not using our phones. And when our minds are distracted, it is easier for our eyes to be taken away from the road. Here are some examples of distracted driving that don’t involve using a mobile device.
Reading a billboard
Looking at yourself in the mirror
Driving while drowsy
Eating or drinking
Playing with the radio
Looking at objects outside the vehicle
Letting your mind wander
Avoiding Distracted Driving
Recognizing when and how distracted driving can occur may be one of the best ways to prevent it from happening. But possibly the hardest part of avoiding distracted driving is having to retrain our brains to stay focused on the road. Drivers have picked up a strong habit of needing to be on the phone regardless of what they are doing, which can be incredibly dangerous for everyone on the road.
Turn your phone off and put it away.
Keep a safe driving distance between you and the vehicle in front of you.
Prepare in advance, including what you are listening to, the temperature, directions, and any personal grooming.
Give some responsibility to any passengers. Ask them to help with the radio and other vehicle controls, and ask them to be considerate when having a conversation.
Speak up. When a passenger is being distracting, don’t hesitate to tell them that they are being distracting.
Keep your mind focused by looking at the vehicle in front of you and focusing on the rules of the road.
Wherever you are on the road, give yourself the control and take responsibility of being proactive about distracted driving. Whether you are tempted to use your phone or are in a hurry to reach your destination and need to eat on the road, remember that driving distracted can put not only yourself in danger, but other drivers around you.
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