Careless Cell Phone Usage: The Bane Of Driver Safety

To the editor: Bob Eckhardt makes some very good points in Driver Safety Regs Remain on a Roll (November 2007). It’s in everyone’s best interest to be


To the editor÷

Bob Eckhardt makes some very good points in Driver Safety Regs Remain on a Roll (November 2007). It’s in everyone’s best interest to be aware of upcoming legislation, as it will impact the way managers manage, drivers drive, and the way we all do business. But, I was particularly interested in his comments concerning driver distraction, hands-free cell phones, and aggressive drivers.

Whenever I see someone driving erratically Û either too slowly or drifting into and out of lanes as though they can’t decide which lane to drive in Û the very large majority of times there is a cell phone glued to their ear. I often give them a very wide berth and shake my head in disgust as I pass them or otherwise maneuver to be outside of their potential zone of destruction. Especially if it’s a ready mixed concrete truck.

Unfortunately, through my experience, I’ve seen thousands of videos where the driver attempts to make, take or engage in a call. The result? The driver usually rolls the vehicle over when hitting an uneven or soft shoulder or encounters some other unanticipated event. It’s also common when a mixer truck driver tries to negotiate a turn while driving too fast and carrying a partially loaded drum. Most survive quite well and intact, but the look of first surprise and then the realization that it is too late to compensate for their inattention, are quite universal.

Don’t lawmakers and our government institutions realize that cell phones are one of the largest contributors to death on our highways? And, some of the most recent studies have shown that the distractions are the same, whether you are talking on a hands-free cell phone or not. Changes need to be made and they need to be made sooner rather than later. Before more lives are lost.

As for aggressive drivers, work is being done to use previous behavior to help predict future behavior.

What’s important to understand is that the power of knowing who may potentially cause accidents in the future is the first step in preventing those accidents. By knowing these drivers, understanding their behavior, and coaching them to drive better, accidents can be prevented. The only way to understand your drivers’ behavior is to know their behavior Û what are they doing in their vehicle that is causing these violations? Were they distracted by a cell phone, a radio, or another person in the vehicle? Were they falling asleep, trying to get directions, or eating while driving? Or, any combination of the above?

The only way to know your drivers’ behavior is to see it. Not just during ride-alongs, but every time they step into their vehicle, turn on the ignition, and put that vehicle into drive.

I’m concerned that there are laws currently on the books that may prevent carriers from keeping their drivers and our roads safe by not knowing their drivers’ behavior. Laws written many years ago that did not allow for today’s technology are hampering your efforts in understanding your drivers’ behavior and limiting the placement of video event recorders.

Everyone involved in the commercial vehicle industry needs to do everything in their power to ensure that we reduce the 4,995 large truck fatalities in 2006 to zero deaths in 2008 (and help to reduce the 43,000 total traffic fatalities to zero, as well). Talk to NRMCA Government Affairs representatives, your state highway legislators, and everyone who can help make a difference in allowing new technologies that help safety managers see driving behaviors. If we only reduced large truck fatalities by 5 percent in 2007, we still had 4,476 fatalities. How many of those were your drivers?

More importantly, how many are future fatalities that otherwise could have been averted by just proactively breaking bad habits that will cause death and destruction, if not eradicated at the source when drivers’ luck runs out.

Families deserve mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers coming home safely each and every night. The emotional cost and havoc wreaked upon a family when victimized by a needless automotive fatality dwarves the actual monetary cost.

As a society, we deserve more and should not accept less than striving to get to zero defects in this ongoing human tragedy.
Bruce Moeller
President & CEO
DriveCam Inc.

Editor’s note: DriveCam has adapted video event recording technology for mixer truck fleets. It enables users to promote safe driving practices Û and secure information potentially exonerating mixer drivers in the event of accidents where others are at fault Û by providing footage of road and truck cab conditions just prior to and following an impact, abrupt lateral motion, or hard stop. DriveCam’s premier industry user is Houston-based U.S. Concrete Inc., which has more than 1,000 video event recording devices in its fleet.