Monday, September 28, 2009

US Truckers Argue Against Bill To Prevent Texting Whilst Driving

Overwhelming Public Support to Outlaw Computer Use
Shipping News Feature

US – A federal bill to ban the use of text messages whilst drivers are in transit, has come under fire from the nation’s truckers. The American Trucking Association, whilst supporting the general principle that the industry does not agree with the practice, insists that the new technology used by its members is a safe form of communication.

The new bill would withhold federal funding from states who fail to implement laws to control the use of phones and text devices whilst driving. A recent poll by the New York Times showed only 8% of respondents felt a ban unjustified and 87% felt texting or e mailing drivers posed a serious threat to safety.

The computers now installed in truck cabs, which give cargo details, load destinations etc., are claimed to be safer than phones and normal text methods, carrying as they do, a separate screen to issue instructions. Manufacturers state that users are supposed to stop before operating the devices, in practice this rarely happens. US truckers say such devices are necessary to ensure efficient transit and to minimise costs but a comprehensive study of 200 truck drivers’ habits recorded over 3 million miles showed an alarming tendency for drivers to lose concentration whilst operating the devices.

Although over twice as safe as normal texting, the in cab computer systems still caused drivers to view the screen for an average four seconds which increased driving incidents of accidents, near misses and inadvertent lane changes by a factor of ten.

Many Europeans will once again view the activities of the US truckers as incomprehensible. Although not perfect, evidence used in accident cases in the UK, for example, of drivers crashing whilst texting regularly results in long prison sentences for offenders. The size and inconsistencies of the huge US state system almost always means a slow take up of measures which are seen as essential in many smaller countries.