Driving a commercial vehicle requires extensive training. Many truck drivers learn to drive a big rig at Eagle Training Services, Inc., on Harrison Avenue in Rockford. The course entails 40 hours of classroom study and 120 hours of training behind the wheel. After successfully completing the course, a new truck driver has all of the skills required to operate an 18-wheeler safely. Still, lack of experience and driver distraction can contribute to a serious truck accident.
Heavy commercial vehicles do not handle the same way that passenger vehicles do. They are equipped with a manual transmission and require extra time to slow down or stop. Because of these differences and many others, professional truck drivers must keep both hands on the wheel and attention focused on the road.
Distraction occurs when a truck driver hears, sees, does, or thinks about something other than driving. While any type of driver distraction can be a hazard, researchers are finding that cognitive distraction—thinking about something else while driving—can be especially dangerous.
A recent study conducted by the University of Utah on behalf of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety illustrates that point. Using laboratory simulations and instrumented vehicles to evaluate the cognitive workload associated with specific tasks, researchers found that texting using a hands-free voice-to-text system posed a significant crash risk. The brain is unable to compose a text message and focus on driving at the same time. As a result, it takes the driver more time to recognize a driving hazard and react to it appropriately.
Common On-Board Distractions
Following are some additional examples of distractions that can cause a driver to lose focus and can contribute to a serious truck accident:
- Personal phone calls, texts, and emails—even when a hands-free mobile device is used
- CB communication with other truck drivers
- Communication with dispatch using some type of on-board mobile communication device
- On-board gauges and displays
- Laptops—used for fleet management or personal computing
- Televisions and DVD players
- GPS devices
- Eating and drinking
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