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Are Truckers At A Greater Risk When Distracted?

BOWMANVILLE, Ont. -Texting truckers: put down those phones. A recent study by the Virginia Transportation Institute has found that truckers who text while driving are a whopping 23 times more likely t...





BOWMANVILLE, Ont. -Texting truckers: put down those phones. A recent study by the Virginia Transportation Institute has found that truckers who text while driving are a whopping 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident than an undistracted driver. The study found that a driver’s eyes can be averted from the roadway for five seconds out of a six-second window while texting. That’s enough time for a vehicle to travel the length of a football field at 55 mph. According to the same study, a truck driver is 5.9 times more likely to be involved in an accident while dialing a mobile phone compared to a passenger car driver which is 2.8 times more likely to crash while undertaking the same chore. So what puts texting truckers in such a high-risk position?

We spoke with drivers at the Fifth Wheel Truck Stop in Bowmanville, Ont. to see if they think truckers are at a greater risk when distracted.

Pierre Clement, a driver with Bourett Transport in Drummondville, Que., says truckers have too much to look at already when driving to be bothered with trying to send a text message.

“You have to watch your mirrors all the time. You’ve got to be not on the brake, but near it. You need lots of space between you and the drivers surrounding you, be it cars or another truck. Over here in Toronto on the 401 traffic is so bad you can’t do nothing other than just drive,” he says. “I never use (text messaging) anyway, and if I see a guy that does, I make sure he’s out of the way. Just trying to read some information on my paper when I have to deliver or I’m doing a pickup; it takes your mind off the road. You can’t stop an 18-wheeler on a dime; they’ve always said that, and it’s really true.”

Lucien Dubois, a driver with Quality Carriers in Tampa, Fla., says it’s basically impossible to text while driving and still watch the road.

“If I’m driving down the road and I’ve got one hand on the steering wheel and one hand on the Blackberry, I’ve got to read it and watch the road at the same time. You can’t do it. Park on the god-damned side and do it. People are stupid.”

Dubois says he solves the issue of texting or dialing while driving by using a hands-free system.

“You put it in your ear, your phone rings, you can answer it, and you don’t have to touch your phone. If I want to call my wife or I want to call the office, all I’ve got to do is say ‘office’ or ‘home’ and it automatically phones. It’s only $60 for this earpiece.”

Daryl Moyer, a driver with Celadon out of Indianapolis, Ind., says that texting is not the only culprit taking truckers’ eyes off the road.

“I disagree with not only texting, but using the Qualcomm while you’re driving down the road, reading a map, reading a book, even holding a cell phone up to your head. If you don’t have a hands-free, hang the phone up and make a phone call when you stop. Anything can change at any point in time, and as the weather gets worse, the situations get worse. I agree with that study 100%.”

Ron Wallace, a driver with Wildwood Transport in Winnipeg, Man., says texting in heavy-traffic areas like the Greater Toronto Area is what he sees most -and is also the most dangerous.

“They text in the wrong places in heavy-duty traffic areas…and they just don’t pay attention. The truck itself is heavy too, and it takes a lot more room to stop,” says the veteran of 39 years. “The city of Edmonton has banned handheld cell phones. I think that’s great. I can hook mine up to an earphone. All I do is just flip it open and I can talk.”

-Adam Ledlow is now on Twitter! Join today and follow his tweets at twitter.com/adamledlow.


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