Hoping for everyone to step up, then reality sinks in

When it comes to safe driving habits, there are so many factors that come into play, and how these dynamics are regulated can have both positive and negative outcomes.

The Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) held the first of several planned safety conferences in Lloydminster Jan. 27, and it was an eye-opening event, particularly after hearing the inaugural presentation from Grant Aune, who, after losing two of his brothers to vehicle collisions, it is understandable why he speaks so passionately about the importance of being safe while behind the wheel.

To sum up a lengthy and detailed presentation, Aune’s basic message was that ‘good drivers just drive,’ meaning if you’re a good driver, you don’t let anything distract you from your primary task at hand…driving. As highlighted during the presentation, it is not simply cellphones that cause distractions, but everything that takes your mind off driving.

Drinking a beverage, eating a bag of chips or a chocolate bar, listening to music or the news, talking to your passenger(s), reading a billboard advertisement…the list is endless.

So, even though the message is a good one, is it logical to think that drivers could keep their mind 100% focused at all times?

The simple and honest answer is no. It’s what I like to call the ‘world peace’ aspiration…we’d all love for it to happen, but it never will.

Like Aune rightly pointed out, regulations like Alberta’s distracted driving law are not completely working. He said it’s not about the ‘hand held’ aspect of the device, but the driver’s focus being drawn to something other than driving.

Aune went so far as to say that many people are simply hiding their cellphones on their laps, making the situation worse, as they are now looking down and not at the road at all, when prior to the law, drivers did not have to hide their phones for fear of repercussions, so they kept them up at eye level, which partially kept their vision where it should be.

But nitpicking this issue does no good. Besides, if people followed the current law, we wouldn’t have the distracted driving problem that we do. What then are some more realistic steps drivers and companies that deal with drivers can do to ensure road safety?

In the trucking industry, companies could go all in and forbid the use of cellphones while driving. With a zero-tolerance policy, companies could mandate immediate dismissal for rule-breakers.

With the use of electronic logging devices, coupled with the relative ease seeing when a cellphone has been used, it wouldn’t be difficult to manage this. Some feel stiffer penalties would help deter people from using their cellphones while driving; true for some, but it would not eradicate the epidemic…laws can only do so much, which brings me to the theme of another conference presenter, Spencer Beach – attitude.

You can’t regulate attitudes and behaviours, which means it is impossible to ensure every driver is not being distracted, particularly your non-professional driver, which make up the majority of motorists. Technology is a wonderful thing, but, to sound like an old fogey, it’s also dangerous.

Not in the sci-fi movie sense, where robots take over the world, but that it has become such a distraction to our everyday lives. Whether we are enjoying a sunny day, out for a family meal, watching our kids in the school play or driving down the highway, our faces are buried in our devices, and before we know it, we’ve missed what’s truly important. 

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A university graduate with a degree in English, I have worked in the media and trucking industries as a writer, editor, and now as western bureau chief of Today's Trucking and TruckNews.com. I have several years of management experience in journalism, as well as hospitality, but am first and foremost a writer, both professionally and in my personal life, having completed two fiction novels.

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