Distracted Driving Even with Hands-Free Technology
Distracted driving is a leading cause of truck accidents. While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has worked hard to address this deadly hazard, more work urgently needs to be done. Too many trucking accidents happen while truck drivers use hands-free technology to communicate via their cell phones.
The Clear and Present Danger of Hands-Free Technology
In June 2013, the AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety issued a report that highlighted the significant risks of using hands-free technology while operating an automobile. Conducted by researchers at the University of Utah, the study measured the cognitive distraction of those operating motor vehicles, while interacting with and using a number of in-vehicle devices (like the radio and their cellular telephones.)
In a conversation with NPR, David Strayer, one of the authors of the report, stated:
"New speech-based technologies in the car can overload the driver's attention and impair their ability to drive safely. Don't assume that if your eyes are on the road and your hands are on the wheel that you are unimpaired."
As a truck accident lawyer, I was particularly interested another statement from David Strayer, PhD:
"We found that interacting with the speech-to-text system was the most cognitively distracting." That speech-to-text technology is used to send text messages and emails in a hands-free environment.
From the Automobile to the 80,000 lbs. Truck
It doesn't take a genius to realize that if hands-free technology poses risks for cars, then it will invariably be as dangerous in big trucks. In fact, the dangers are even greater given the potential damage that a 53' long truck weighing 80,000 lbs. can do when its driver is not 100% focused on its safe operation.
A Call to Ban ALL Cell-Phone Use
As the science to continues to mount against the use of cell phones by drivers, it strikes me as obvious that the FMCSA must take steps to ban all cell phone use in commercial motor vehicles. Failure to do so is nothing short of inviting further death and destruction in the wake of distracted driving truck caused truck crashes.