Driver distraction is defined by the FMCSA as “the diversion of attention from activities critical for safe driving to a competing activity”. Driving distracted absolutely increases your risk of being involved in a crash.
Distractions are everywhere, which means inside and outside of your cab. Inside distractions include cell phones (dialing and texting), dispatching devices, eating, reading, or fussing with the radio. Outside distractions could be looking at buildings, billboards, or people that you’re passing by. A good rule of thumb to decide if something is a distraction or not is to ask yourself “Is this taking my eyes of the road?” and if the answer is YES, then it’s probably a distraction. The following are some tips from the FMCSA on staying focused while on the road:
Don’t focus on objects outside of your truck.
When you’re driving, stay focused on just that: driving your truck. Billboards, people, and buildings aren’t related to driving, and taking your eyes off of the road to focus on these passing-by objects and people can be a serious distraction. Certain billboards and road signs might be helpful to you and your route (finding the right exit, the next fuel station, nearby food and lodging, etc.), but try to minimize the amount of time you actually look at these signs. Just because they show helpful information doesn’t mean they can’t be distracting.
Don’t text and drive.
Texting and driving is illegal for CMV drivers. It can also easily be the most dangerous distraction. It takes your eyes off the roads, hands off the wheel, and mind off of driving. Not so fun fact: If you’re driving at 55 mph and take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds to type out a text message, you will have traveled the length of a football field (end zones included) without looking at the road. That doesn’t sound so safe to us, what about you?
Don’t use your dispatch device and drive, either.
While your dispatch device lets you and your dispatchers communicate, helps you navigate, and keeps your logs, using it while driving can be just as dangerous and texting. A lot of companies now have policies in place about using your device while driving, or even a lock out feature that turns on while the truck is in motion.
Dialing a cell phone is a no-go, as well.
Just because you’re not texting doesn’t mean that using your phone is any less distracting. Whether you’re scrolling through your contacts or dialing a number, you eyes are still on the phone instead of the road. If you don’t have a smart phone with a voice-activated feature that can place your call for you, find a safe place to stop before making that call.
If you use printed directions, handwritten notes, or paper maps – Put them away.
These are all normal things for CMV drivers to have on hand, but just because they aren’t electronics doesn’t mean they aren’t distracting. Jotting down notes, looking at maps, or reading directions are all incredibly distracting actions. If you need to do any of these things, the safest way to do it is to pull over first.
Driving and snacking don’t mix.
We know it might feel like the only time you have to eat or drink is while you’re on the road, but it’s actually more dangerous to do so than you might think. At least one hand is always off the wheel while you’re eating, and even if you try not to, you’ll probably end up with your eyes off the road at some point, too. Plan out your schedule so that you’ll always have time to pull over to eat.
Don’t let distractions get the best of you. Always use your best judgement, common sense, and training in addition to these tips. Check out our other blog posts to find more useful tips and tricks for truckers!