When we stop to analyze the facts of accidents, all too often we find that they could have and should have been prevented. The following is a list of some of the most frequent causes of motor vehicle accidents involving heavy trucks.
Driver Distraction, Interface, and Workload
Distracted driving is dangerous! Simply stated, there are limits on the number of tasks any driver can safely handle. Vehicle controls, displays, navigation systems, cell phones, computers, and other modern conveniences can serve as a distraction if used in the vehicle while driving. And all such objects have the potential to impact where a driver looks while driving and how long they focus their attention. Multi-tasking to address one’s workload may be fine in an office setting, but it has no business on our roadways. Unfortunately, it has become a modern reality which all too often ends with an accident that never should have happened.
Virtually everyone who drives has been behind the wheel when they were drowsy at one point or another. Regardless of the cause (poor sleep the night before, medication, too many hours behind the wheel, etc.), if one is sleepy their driving ability will be impaired and they will be a threat to everyone on the road around them. Reaction time, vigilance, attention capacity, and information processing ability all suffer when fatigue sets in. Commercial drivers a have an obligation NOT to drive when they are tired. Failure to do so, or corporate conditions which force them to drive while fatigued, recklessly endangers the lives of everyone. It is inexcusable!
Legally-prescribed medications may be necessary, but they also have side effects which can impact safety. Further, if a person requires multiple medications, it is possible for drug interactions to cause impairments and reduce driving safety which would not be present with any one of the medications in isolation.
Mirrors and Other Indirect-Vision Systems
There have been many improvements in the mirror systems used on passenger vehicles over the years, but many of the systems currently in use still leave significant blind spots. When it comes to heavy trucks, these blind spots have been linked to increased risks of accidents, particularly when changing lanes or backing up. But it doesn’t need to be this way.
Additional systems can be employed, such as convex and aspheric mirrors, object-detection systems or cameras to provide drivers more reliable and convenient ways of ensuring that commercial drivers are fully aware of the traffic conditions in which they are operating. We are already seeing these types of systems in regular usage, such as with back up cameras frequently seen in newer passenger cars. Shouldn’t similar systems be routinely employed in the heavy trucking industry? What could be more important for a driver to know than what objects are in their path?
Drugs, Alcohol & Driving
High-risk drinking behaviors, including prior episodes of drinking and driving, episodic heavy drinking, and drinking-related violence have been linked to elevated risks of drug and/or alcohol-related driving events. Given these associations, it is imperative that commercial trucking companies screen an monitor their drivers. Failure to do so places all of us at risk.