A few years ago, it was revealed that distracted driving was an ongoing problem, both among ordinary drivers and truckers. As noted in that article, numbers indicated that about 400,000 people were killed or injured in accidents related to distracted driving in 2011, and distracted drivers were 23 times more likely to get into accidents.
Though distracted driving has always been a problem, those 2011 numbers were among the first to capture the scope of the issue following the rise of smartphones. Basically, drivers were once distracted by calls and texts, and they can now also be preoccupied checking email, surfing the web, or even playing games.
Despite some of the measures taken to combat distracted driving, the numbers don’t seem to be getting much better. In fact, they may even be getting slightly worse. Massive statistics on nationwide driving incidents take some time to come out, but one government resource listing key facts and statistics on distracted driving pointed to some troubling 2014 numbers. In that year, 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 additional people were injured in car accidents related to distracted driving. The similarity between the numbers from 2011 and 2014 indicate that we may have reached a sort of standard expectation for this type of accident. It also suggests that people’s addiction to mobile devices may be intensifying at a rate that outstrips efforts to create devices and incentives that make drivers safer and more focused.
Frankly, prohibiting distracted driving among random individuals still looks to be an incredibly tall order. Laws that make texting while driving punishable don’t seem to have had a great effect, and technologies such as a smart device that sounds an alarm when a hand comes off the wheel just aren’t gaining much popularity. It may be that distracted driving will remain a deadly issue until the widespread advent of smart and/or driverless cars.
Where truckers are concerned, however, there are some new technologies and programs that can help to develop a culture of safety from the corporate level down throughout an entire company. Specifically, with more and more company fleets implementing advanced GPS and even WiFi in vehicles, fleet managers have more ways than ever of tracking driver performance. That doesn’t necessarily mean ensuring that truck drivers aren’t texting or using their phones, but it does mean that actions indicative of distracted driving can automatically be recorded. For instance, systems can tell whether or not a driver is speeding, whether a vehicle makes an inordinate number of sudden stops and starts, how much time is spent idling, etc. They can also provide the most up-to-date and intuitive routing information, which keeps drivers from having to use their phones, even for directions.
These kinds of technologies can’t prevent accidents directly, but they do help to piece together a system of accountability that has never before existed in companies with large shipping divisions. Essentially, truckers working today may be well aware that their driving habits are being strictly monitored for their own benefit. The hope is that this results in a shift in performance and a decline in distracted driving accidents. It certainly seems to be a promising step in the right direction.
Written by Charles Bell
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