New technology can alert employers about potential distracted driving situations. Electronic logging devices use hours of service data to monitor how long truck drivers spend behind the wheel and the length of their rest periods. Additional software can monitor drivers using in-vehicle cameras and send signals when their heads nod or their eyes wander. There are also smartphone applications that shut off distractions when vehicles are moving.
In an effort to save lives and prevent injuries caused by distracted driving and human error, automated technology continues to evolve. Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) warn drivers of safety risks, and automated driving systems (ADS) take control of certain driving tasks. Ultimately, self-driving vehicles will integrate onto U.S. roadways after progressing through these five levels of driver assistance technology advancements:
1. Driver assistance: The driver controls the vehicle, but the vehicle’s ADAS can help the driver with steering, and braking or accelerating, but not simultaneously.
2. Partial automation: The vehicle’s ADAS can control both steering, and braking or accelerating simultaneously under some circumstances. The driver must remain engaged with the task of driving and monitor their environment constantly.
3. Conditional automation: The ADS can perform all aspects of the driving task under some circumstances, but the driver must be prepared to take control of the vehicle whenever the ADS requests him or her to do so. In all other circumstances, the human driver performs the driving task.
4. High automation: The vehicle has the capabilities to perform all driving functions under certain conditions, without the need for the driver to pay attention. The driver may have the option to take control of the vehicle.
5. Full automation: The vehicle’s ADS can do all the driving in all circumstances. The human occupants are just passengers who don’t need to be involved in the task of driving, but the driver may have the option to take control of the vehicle.
Automated vehicles have the potential to eliminate the possibility of human error—the cause of 94 percent of serious crashes—protecting drivers and passengers, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians. Nonetheless, automated vehicles should not be a substitute for alert driving.
While employers must provide training and guidance to prevent distracted driving, road safety is ultimately up to individual drivers. The following are tips your drivers should keep in mind whenever they’re out in the field:
• Remain educated on the risks and consequences of distracted driving. Attend any refresher courses your employer provides.
• Do not text, dial a cellphone or use dispatching devices while you drive.
• Avoid distracting activities such as eating, personal grooming and reaching for items.
• Install an application on your cellphone that recognizes when your vehicle is in motion and responds to texts and calls with a preset safety message.
• Minimize the potential for distractions by planning your routes. Research your drive ahead of time to eliminate the need for GPS, maps and other navigation tools.
• Organize your vehicle’s cabin to ensure personal items you may need during a long trip are well within reach. To eliminate the need to reach for items while you drive, program your GPS, adjust your mirrors and tune your radio before you hit the road.
• Avoid multitasking when driving. If you need to make a phone call or respond to a text message on the road, pull over beforehand. Even the use of a hands-free device is dangerous and can create a cognitive distraction. To help eliminate the urge to use cellphones and other devices, turn them off and stow them out of sight in a safe compartment.
• Ensure you are well-rested prior to getting behind the wheel. When you drive fatigued, the chances of becoming distracted and getting into an accident increase.
• Focus on driving and do not let anything divert your attention. While you drive, actively scan the road, using your mirrors to watch out for other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.
• Plan your meals in advance and avoid eating while you drive.
• Understand and adhere to distracted driving laws in your state.
• Follow employer-mandated guidelines outlined in distracted driving programs and similar policies.
Drivers who glance away from the road for any reason, even for just a second, risk the safety of themselves and others. In order to remain safe on the road, employers and drivers must work together to understand and reduce the risks of distracted driving.