Distracted driving is dangerous—it has even claimed 3,142 lives on America’s roads in 2019, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report. It can slow reaction time significantly, so it is never safe to close your eyes or do any activity that will take your attention away from driving even for just five seconds. These few seconds of distraction can spell the difference between a safe ride and an accident or fatality.
The potential risks are twice as great when it comes to truck driving given the size, weight, and force of the vehicle. Distracted truck driving is highly likely to result in not only extensive damage and serious injuries but also fatalities. That is why truck drivers must have their eyes, hands, and minds focused on the road at all times.
While texting is the most alarming distraction, there are other activities that can divert your attention from driving. These include listening to loud music, eating or drinking, and adjusting the seatbelt. But there are seven driving distractions that truckers consider the most common, and these are the following:
Lost in thought
Truckers share that being generally distracted or “lost in thought” is by far the most common cause of distracted truck driving. Fatigue, stress, and problems at home can be factors to this. It’s no doubt that a trucking career has its own set of challenges, especially for long-haul truckers who are expected to spend a night or days away from home. When fatigue hits, it can cause you to lose your focus. And once your mind starts wandering for long periods of time while driving, it can lead to a tragic situation.
Smartphone use while driving
Cases of distracted driving in America have increased dramatically since the advent of the smartphone. And these can be attributed mainly to texting while driving. Truckers admit that smartphone use when driving is really dangerous. That is because it encompasses all three categories of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive.
When a driver uses his cellphone while driving, he takes one of his hands off the wheel to hold the phone. Then, he takes his eyes off the road for a few seconds to look at who’s calling or the message he’s texting. While talking over the phone or texting, of course, his mind is off the road. When all these three elements are combined, that is definitely the best recipe for accidents.
Outside person, event, or object
Looking at something or someone outside the truck is another common driving distraction. This usually happens when passing an accident or other roadside events. Although drivers know that turning their heads while driving to look at what’s going on outside is dangerous, they just can’t help it. And before they know it, they have already bumped into another vehicle or worse, hit someone.
Eating or drinking
Eating or drinking while driving is extremely dangerous. But still, a lot of truckers are guilty of doing this, especially those who find themselves behind schedule. To save time, they opt to eat or drink while driving even though they know the possibility of getting distracted while doing so.
According to NHTSA, the ten most dangerous types of food and drinks to eat while driving are soft drinks, cream-filled or powdered doughnuts, chocolate, barbecue food, fried chicken, hamburgers, tacos, soups, chili, and coffee. Truckers must avoid these at-risk foods while driving to prevent getting distracted. If you are really hungry or thirsty, you can always pull over and enjoy your meal first.
Reaching for or adjusting devices inside the vehicle
You’ve probably seen in movies or TV shows how reaching for devices inside the vehicle while driving can lead to an accident. Well, it does happen in real life. And the risk is actually much more serious when you reach for or adjust devices inside a truck. Some examples are when you try to reach for your smartphone, adjust the navigation system, and fiddle with the A/C or radio switch. These distractions may cause you to lose control of your truck, resulting in an unfortunate accident.
Moving objects in the truck can also be a distraction. One good example is an unsecured cup that may fall and roll under your feet. This can distract you, and worse, impede your ability to use the brakes and pedals. If it contains a hot liquid and spills on your lap, it can surely contribute to out-of-control or distracted driving.
The same applies to moving insects such as bees and wasps. When any of these fly into you, you may lose control of the vehicle. This can be very dangerous as this can lead to a collision or other forms of accidents.
Conversations or arguments with other vehicle occupants
When the driver carries on a conversation or has an argument with other vehicle occupants, it can lead to distracted driving. That is why if you are driving down the highway, avoid having arguments or long conversations with other passengers and pay more attention to the road ahead.