Study after study is finding that operators of every mode of transportation – trucks, cars, even planes, trains and ships – are being dangerously distracted by technology.
When the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) announced the findings of its annual survey of transportation industry executives about the top ten issues they face in 2014, a new worry landed on the list: distracted driving of drivers using cell phones when operating a vehicle.
A few months before that, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) issued its Most Wanted List of 2014 safety priorities that are ready for action. The NTSB chairman said the agency will be urging legislation on distracted driving by all motorists, an opinion the president of the American Trucking Associations holds, as well.
The bottom line is that accident investigations by the NTSB involving every mode of transportation – trucks, cars, planes, trains or ships – underscore the dangers of using portable electronic communications devices during operation.
The ATRI survey includes proposed strategies to combat this issue, in which it advocates for a federal ban of hand-held cell phone use and texting for all motorists, noting that truck drivers are banned from texting while driving and may only make voice calls as long as it is done through voice activation or by using only one button to make a call.
We’re finding that the study of the dangers of distracted driving is just in its infancy.
A newer study from the AAA and the University of Utah says that in many cars, making a hands-free phone call can be more distracting than picking up the phone. An article in the Los Angeles Times on the study says that “in-dash systems are overly complicated and prone to errors, and the same is true for voice-activated functions for music and navigation.”
“We already know that drivers can miss stop signs, pedestrians and other cars while using voice technologies. We now understand that current shortcomings in these products, intended as safety features, may unintentionally cause greater levels of cognitive distraction,” said Bob Dabelnet, CEO of AAA.
Now, the NTSB has issued a stronger recommendation on the issue. In a nutshell, it wants the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to ban hands-free phone use in trucks. Period.
This follows a very serious truck-train crash leading to derailment, hazmat fire, and explosion.
The 2013 crash in Maryland happened when the truck driver failed to make sure there was no train on the tracks he was crossing. A major contributing factor, the NTSB says, is that the driver was distracted by a call that came in on his hands-free phone just as he was approaching the tracks.
It’s evident that the issue of distracted driving is not going away soon. With the proliferation of new communication technology, the dangers may only increase.
Or will they? Here’s a challenge I’d like to make to the technology industry: Why not put your brain power together to work on a solution to distracted driving? Technology has led to the creation of unimagined devices that have made the transportation industry safer and more efficient. Let’s see what you can do to keep our minds on our most important task at hand – driving safely and getting us all home intact to our families.