During the week of Sept. 20 there was a flurry of activity involving distracted driving. Trucking rules were introduced and finalized and Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood led the second all-day Distracted Driving Summit in Washington with a full slate of speakers.
A final rule was announced in the early hours of the summit which bans truck and bus drivers from texting while driving. And a proposed rule was announced that would ban texting by hazmat drivers who drive intrastate and are not covered by the texting ban, closing a loophole in that rule.
One thing that gets under my skin is when truckers say things that infer that everybody is out to get them. Regarding the texting ban many say that it’s the four-wheelers that cause all of the problems and why don’t “they” do something about that.
Well, “they” are. I believe it’s worth repeating for me to say once again: truckers are regulated federally and four-wheelers are regulated by state laws which means that Secretary LaHood can quickly apply rules to CMV drivers, while it takes longer for states to pass legislation that does the same thing for drivers who do not have a CDL.
I don’t believe anybody is out to get truckers, especially when it involves distracted driving. I think Secretary LaHood and others aim to stop distracted driving before it gets worse. I really don’t understand how anyone driving a truck or automobile thinks that it’s safe to text and drive. And as little as I am out on the roads and highways I constantly see people do stupid things while driving and holding a phone up to their ear.
The problem is that technology is advancing more quickly than rules and regulations can be made and enforced to keep up. Ford and other automakers are installing equipment in vehicles to help drivers do things such as interact on Facebook. We don’t need more distractions in trucks and cars, we need less.
Recently on a late summer Sunday afternoon with sunny skies and dry pavement I began to see reports posted on Facebook about a terrible wreck that had occurred near Vilonia, Ark.
The wreck involved three vehicles. Four people died, and four people were injured. The cause of the wreck was road rage. One driver pulled out in front of another onto the highway and a chase began. The four people killed in the collision were not involved in the road rage incident, but were killed because of it.
There were several bad wrecks around the central Arkansas area during the first half of September, including the one near Vilonia mentioned above. During the first half of the month at least 20 people died in wrecks on Arkansas highways.
There were so many major wrecks and fatalities that people started wondering what was happening. It was during this time that I noticed something that caught my attention. I began to see people posting comments on Facebook about these wrecks and numerous people commented that people needed to stop texting and/or talking on their phones and pay attention to the road.
Following are some of the comments from Facebook after a severe wreck on Interstate 430 just three days after the road rage incident that killed four. The comments are edited for spelling and grammar.
• “Talking/texting while driving + following too close + speeding = bad accident. When will people learn?” — Jeremy Knabe
• “We need to try to start keeping records on whether any involved in these wrecks were talking or texting while driving. Too many distractions.” — Sherri L. Stewart
• “People need to slow down. Get off your phone and ease up on that lead foot.” — Meghan Wilson
• “One thing I think the state needs to look into is harder cell phone laws. I do like to talk on my phone when I am driving like anyone else … but maybe we all should look into hands-free and pay more attention to the road and everyone else around us. The biggest thing I see people not do when they are on the cell phone is use a signal.” — Bobby Wedsted
• “The roads are getting very dangerous lately. Slow down, put down the texting and Blackberry and iPhones and pay attention to the road. Not only are you putting your life in danger, but also the lives of other people out there, and the lives of children ….” — Lindsey Dale Woodham
• “There was a woman driving on 67/167 using both hands to text with a small child in the front passenger seat. I think some people need to take driving lessons again. — Angela Venable Gosh
• “It’s called iPhone syndrome!” — Kacey Murray
• “Too many people are dying. That text, that phone call is not worth your life or someone else’s life.” — Ricky Nicki White
• “Police need to pay attention to not just speeders but cell phone users too.” — Melissa Heath, and
• “Insurance companies and car companies should go in together and make a device that disables your phone when your car is running.” — Judy Koonce Carson.
Maybe, just maybe, people are starting to catch on that it’s dangerous to drive with one hand, no hands, or with their mind someplace else. We have come so far so quickly with technology that allows us to keep in touch via tiny equipment that fits in your hand. Technology has advanced beyond safety and now we are playing catch up.
I live just two miles from my office here at The Trucker so I’m not on the highways like a lot of folks, especially you truckers, but there is not a day that goes by that I don’t see some kind of incident involving a cell phone while driving that is an accident waiting to happen.
Enforcement of texting and cell phone bans is difficult, just like getting people to buckle up was and still is in some cases. It’s up to each individual to realize the dangers that any distraction inside their vehicle can cause and stop doing it.
No call or text is worth a life.
Barb Kampbell of The Trucker staff can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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