The competition for a driver's attention used to be between driving, the radio and other passengers. That competition now includes cell phones, GPS devices, iPods and other personal electronic devices. The increase in serious car and truck accidents caused by distracted driving has caused the National Transportation Safety Board to hold a forum designed to cover the issue. "Attentive Driving: Countermeasures for Distraction" is scheduled for March 27 and will cover a wide range of issues connected to driver inattention.
When the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed new restrictions on the hours of service a truck driver could operate, there was no doubt there would be controversy. Trucking industry insiders believe that the new rules are needlessly restrictive and will not make a significant difference in the number of truck accidents. The American Trucking Association (ATA) is petitioning the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the validity of the newly proposed rules.
While many states have adopted bans on texting while driving, the acceptance for a total ban on portable electronic device use while driving has not caught on to the same level. The National Transportation Safety Board called for such a ban last December in response to mounting evidence that cell phones are a growing cause of serious car and truck accidents. The Vice Chairman of the NTSB is testifying on that recommendation for the New York State Senate Committee on Transportation today as part of the effort to gain the support of lawmakers across the nation.
An Illinois truck driver was struck and killed over the weekend when a trailer towed by an SUV came loose, crossed the median and struck the semi on Interstate 80-90. The driver of the UPS semi truck was declared dead on the scene from blunt force trauma caused by the trailer. The fatal truck accident raises questions as to how the empty trailer became un-hitched from the SUV. According to police, the driver of the SUV was not intoxicated and was not swerving when the trailer came off. He did not receive a traffic citation, nor is he facing criminal charges at this time.
An Amtrak train headed to Chicago derailed yesterday, injuring at least ten people. The train collided with a semi truck at a railroad crossing in Michigan. The engine was overturned and all 68 passengers and five crew members had to be evacuated. The truck driver was also taken to the hospital. Thankfully, none of the injuries suffered were life-threatening.
The Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee and the Medical Review Board have teamed up to recommend mandatory testing for sleep apnea among obese truck drivers. Sleep apnea has been linked to numerous truck accidents where the driver either fell asleep or was exhausted at the time of the crash. The two committees are preparing a formal recommendation to present to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration later this year. Sleep apnea is a known-issue in the trucking industry, with several leading companies already testing their drivers to ensure that proper steps are taken.
A number of questionable practices in the Cook County Highway Department have placed workers and the driving public in danger. According to Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard, many of the 320 trucks in the fleet have not passed, and would not pass, safety inspections, increasing the risk of serious truck accidents. While some vehicles have continued to be used despite not passing inspection, the County also used fraudulent practices to help some of its other vehicles sneak through the state's safety inspection.
Distracted driving was linked to more than 3,000 deaths last year, according to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Cell phone use was a primary culprit in many of those fatal car and truck accidents. The size of the problem has led the National Transportation Safety Board to recommend a nationwide ban on using personal electronic devices, including cell phones, in any capacity while driving.
Wisconsin drivers are about to get a reminder about the dangers of driving drunk and riding in a car without a seat belt. The statewide campaign known as "Booze and Belts" will last until December 17th and is intended to reduce the number of deaths and injuries due to car and truck accidents. Police departments all over the state have been cracking down on people who do not wear their seat belts in connection with the nationwide Click it or Ticket campaign. Now the state is further stepping up efforts to arrest and convict drivers for not buckling up.
With all the attention paid to cell phone use and the rise in distracted driving, it is important to keep sight of a problem that has been around since cars were invented-driver fatigue. After several high profile truck accidents cited sleep apnea as playing a role in the accident, some industry groups took notice. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration made a recommendation in 2008 that all truck drivers undergo screening for sleep apnea. Despite that recommendation, the Department of Transportation had taken no action to require truck drivers to be tested for sleep apnea or for sufferers to be treated before they can resume driving.