OTTAWA, ON – The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) wants truck drivers to drop those distractions and just drive.
The group is launching two new programs this year through their Drop It And Drive (DIAD) educational arm devoted to making sure drivers really understand what distracted driving means.
In partnership with the Canadian Coalition on Distracted Driving (CCDD) the group introduced an E-Hub this week, with resources and educational tools for all road users to learn more about what behaviors can distract while behind the wheel. May will see the launch of a truck-specific corporate seminar.
More than just a list of tips and tricks, the new E-Hub has collected research on distracted driving from more than four countries and summarized each study into short paragraphs to show readers the hard evidence of how certain behaviors affect their driving habits.
While many of the studies available are focused on general road users or car drivers, there are currently four focused on commercial vehicle drivers, with more being added as they become available.
The hub was designed not just for drivers, but schools, trainers, law enforcement officers, employers, and others that may need to educate other drivers about distracted driving habits.
Director and founder of DIAD Karen Bowman says when the organization was founded seven years ago it wasn’t just about lecturing, but empowering people to take what they learn and educate those around them to make better choices on the road.
While DIAD has been showing their corporate seminar to fleets who request it for years, they recognized the need to have a program with information specific to commercial drivers.
Bowman says drivers may think they understand what distracted driving entails, but after participating in the three-and-a-half-hour interactive course they discover things they didn’t know.
Using what Bowman calls “building blocks of knowledge” the seminars cover four areas – visual, manual, auditory, and cognitive distractions, going far beyond having a phone in your hand. Bowman says one of the questions she gets most frequently is about Bluetooth headsets.
“It’s promoted as being the alternative, but hands-free is not safer,” she says.
Cognitive distraction can reduce a driver’s attention on the road in front of them and narrow their field of vision by up to 50% because they are focused on the call they’re taking. While headsets are often said to be just as safe as talking to someone in the passenger seat next to you, they’re not.
“It saddens me how many people believe that hands-free is safer. But only because they don’t have the information I have.”
While Bowman says she understands hands-free sets are legal, and the group wouldn’t presume to tell drivers what choice to make about them, she aims to provide people with the tools to make an informed choice for themselves.
The trucking seminars will also focus on helping commercial drivers develop good task-management habits to reduce job-related distractions in the cab using a hands-on approach.
“I’ve never believed you can tell somebody something, you have to show them,” says Bowman. “They get to really experience what they’re talking about. “
Bowman says some of the best feedback she gets comes from seminar attendees that have had a “lightbulb” moment.
Companies and fleets that sign up for the seminars are also encouraged to sponsor a seminar for a high school in their community, so DIAD can educate younger drivers.
“It allows the whole road safety message to be a community based message. We all have to be playing on the same song sheet,” says Bowman.
Even if students aren’t ready to drive, the knowledge they have helps them to talk to the people they might be in a car with.
“Whether we’re talking to the kids or the adults, its empowering them to speak up if their driver is distracted.”
Fleets interested in setting up a seminar can contact DIAD through the website or by emailing Bowman at KarenB@tirf.ca.
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