Most drivers know they aren’t supposed to text and drive. But did you know that distracted driving is just as dangerous as texting? Unfortunately, texting isn’t illegal in all the states yet. In order to save people from accidents, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has decided to prohibit all truck drivers not only from texting and driving but also from distracted driving in general. If you choose to ignore those rules, you put yourself at risk of being injured/injuring someone else or being penalized for your actions. To avoid injury or penalty, make sure you avoid getting distracted while you drive.
What is Considered “Distracted”?
Distracted isn’t just texting. It also includes:
- taking pictures (even though it’s only one button)
If you have to touch more than one button or take your eyes off the road for more than a second, you’re considered distracted. However, this doesn’t apply to using company dispatching devices, as long as it is not being used for texting.
Why should you care if you’re distracted? While your distractions may make time go faster, you may end up being penalized if anyone finds out. The possible penalties include:
- a fine of up to $2,750
- being put out of service for up to 120 days (for repeat offenses)
- your employer can be fined up to $11,000 either if they know about distracted drivers and do nothing about it or if they allow distracted driving
- employer’s SMS ratings can go down
In order to dial a number or text/read a text, a person will look away from the road for at least 3 seconds…usually closer to 4 or 5. For a truck traveling at 55 mph, they’ll travel the length of more than a football field in those few seconds. Would you want to be next to that truck for that long? Imagine if someone cut too close in front of that truck during those seconds. Other distractions such as reaching for something or trying to snap a photo can cause a driver to look away from the road for even longer.
Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident, and drivers who make a phone call while driving are 6 times more likely to be involved in an accident.
What Should You Do?
Choose the hands-free options. If you have a smartphone, take advantage of that. Instead of dialing a number, tell your phone to call them. Tell your phone to text if necessary as well as have it read the text aloud to you. Until you get a device that can perform these safe functions, don’t even attempt to make a call or text. Also remember that distracted driving is more than phone use. If you lean over to grab a tissue, you’re distracted. Avoid anything that requires you to not be 100% focused on the road ahead of you. Your life and others’ depend on it. Drive focused.