Texting and fatigue: two overlooked distractions among truckers

In New York and throughout the rest of the U.S., distractions are posing a threat on the road. Billboards may tell drivers to keep their eyes on the road, not to text and not to fall asleep so as to avoid a car crash, but many drivers have the mentality of thinking, "It won't happen to me." Commercial truck drivers are no different, and fleet owners will want to do something about this.

Science backs up the claim that distracted driving leads to accidents. Texting and driving is one of the most alarming forms because it constitutes a visual, manual and cognitive distraction all at once. Sending a text takes about five seconds: With a vehicle going 55 mph, that's like traveling the length of a football field with one's eyes closed.

The pressures of a "productivity culture" encourage truckers to stay awake longer and thus become fatigued behind the wheel. Those who sleep 5.5 to 6.4 hours are twice as likely to drive drowsy than those who sleep one or two hours more. Fatigue also strikes those who take the federally required number of breaks but experience only poor-quality sleep.

Fleet owners should take steps to create a safety-oriented workplace culture, using exposure rather than injuries as a measurement for improvement. They should meaningfully engage employees as they identify risk factors.

If distracted driving or another form of negligence is to blame for an auto accident, those who were injured through little or no fault of their own may be eligible for compensation. Negotiating a settlement with a trucking company might go more smoothly with a lawyer. The lawyer, in turn, might hire accident investigators to gather proof against the trucker, which may include the police report and the trucker's phone records.

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