Sharing the roadways with buses, delivery trucks, large commercial vehicles, and more are members of the traveling public as they go about their daily routines. Regardless of the mode of transportation, being safe on the road is a responsibility shared by all.
We live in fast times – both at home and work – connected continuously through an array of technological devices. The adoption of technology has progressed rapidly since the early 2000s, and today, handheld devices are commonplace. Despite the positives of technology, it has also increased the chances of drivers, bikers, and pedestrians alike becoming distracted.
Today, automotive vehicles are equipped with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), adding lane change assistance, automatic braking, backup cameras, blind-spot monitoring, and other capabilities for improved driving. With these tools, it is easier to avoid incidents than ever before, thanks to the safety systems which keep drivers alert. However, in this time of IT, smart technology, and robotics, heavy-duty machines are still not equipped with such safety solutions but are faced with the same distractions.
Distracted driving has been defined as driving while performing any activity which could potentially distract a driver from the primary task of operating a vehicle. Anything taking a driver's eyes or mental concentration off the road and away from driving, including things such as talking or texting on a cellphone, flipping radio stations, and talking to passengers is distracted driving.
While on-road and near traffic, you should always keep your eyes on the road, but this is exceptionally important in work zones. As ADAS continues in developmental stages, distracted drivers still pose an incredible threat to your safety. By avoiding distractions such as smartphones, eating, drinking, the radio, GPS, and conversing with others - you protect not only yourself, but those around mobile operations - especially on construction sites, while working outside of your vehicle on the road, and throughout busy worksites.
"Be mindful of your cellphone use both on and off of the job… the consequences of [distractions] at work can be much more severe. Work areas and the tasks occurring in them are constantly changing. The last thing you need to be doing is placing all of your focus on the screen of your cellphone." – Distracted While Walking by SafetyTalkIdeas.
While smartphones have made it easier than ever to stay connected, those positives pose a threat once you decide to check an SMS message, read an e-mail, make a call, or use any other mobile applications while driving.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), texting while driving has been proven to be six times more likely to cause an incident than driving while intoxicated.
The NSC reports that cellphone use while driving causes a 400 percent increase in time spent with a driver's eyes off the road. When your attention is pulled away from the road by a notification, the NSC also found checking your device takes your eyes from the road for approximately five seconds. Driving at 55 mph, that's enough time to travel the length of a football field.
To improve safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) prohibits all commercial drivers from using hand-held mobile devices. Countless "Don't Text and Drive" campaigns have posted billboards and ads to help raise awareness. To reinforce the message, commercials sharing the last message sent before a fatal incident air often, asking, "Was it worth it?" Serving as a dark reminder the real dangers of distracted driving.
Despite these efforts, cellphone use while driving is still very prevalent on our roads today. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) findings, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while behind the wheel of an automobile at any given time throughout the day.
Different Technology, Better Solutions
Indeed, the damage from an incident involving a large commercial truck versus an everyday automotive vehicle is disproportionate. With a larger machine comes the higher probability for more severe – and often fatal – injuries. Research supports that a majority of the time when an incident occurs, it is a member of the public that created that issue due to human error or distracted driving.
"The safety benefits of automated vehicles are paramount. Automated vehicles' potential to save lives and reduce injuries is rooted in one critical and tragic fact: 97 percent of serious crashes are due to human error," NHTSA said in their Automated Vehicles for Safety article. "Automated vehicles have the potential to remove human error from the crash equation, which will help protect drivers and passengers, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians."
Thankfully, safety systems are available to protect against the dangers of distracted driving. Audible and visual sensor systems are being integrated, bringing large equipment operators the ability to recognize hazards and take action. PRECO's PreView Side Defender®II is one of the many technological advancements propelling the industry into the future of safety. As regulatory and consumer interest fuel the implementation of safety technology, and the ban on cellphone use while driving within the automotive and transport industries, the number of distracted drivers is expected to decrease.
Clock Out, Don’t Zone Out
Think about your drive home. Do you seem to run on auto-pilot to get there? The NHTSA reports that approximately 52 percent of all accidents occur within a five-mile radius of home, and 69 percent of all car accidents occur within a ten-mile range from home. These accidents occur, unfortunately, because driving in familiar places causes us to rely more on muscle memory than on our active driving skills. Over time, the repetitive route and familiarity make us less likely to be hyper-vigilant on the road.
Just like the drive home, we see our work areas every day. To avoid these ‘familiarity’ incidents, it's a good idea to be perceptive, and ask ourselves:
- What details are we not paying attention to?
- What dangers are we either missing or being complacent with?
- What aspects are we missing in our work procedures?
To continue to learn more about how to improve perception while driving and on the worksite, look for Part 2: How Perceptive Are We? Coming soon.