This one is just too easy. The New York Times published a story on Sunday about how truck drivers are lobbying not to have texting laws apply to them. I fully understand the need for drivers to get to locations on time and the demands of a driver to get their trailers from place to place quickly and efficiently. However, this is not an excuse for hurting safety.
According to the Times, rather than chatting on cell phones or texting on Blackberrys, truckers are communicating with their dispatch centers via computers in their cabs. These computer feature screens and often keyboards right in the laps of drivers. Here is a snippet from the article:
After videotaping truckers behind the wheel, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that those who used on-board computers faced a 10 times greater risk of crashing, nearly crashing or wandering from their lane than truckers who did not use those devices.
That figure is lower than the 23 times greater risk when truckers texted, compared with drivers simply focused on the road, according to the same study. However, the Virginia researchers said that truckers tend to use on-board computers more often than they text.
The study found that truckers using on-board computers take their eyes off the road for an average of four seconds, enough time at highway speeds to cover roughly the length of a football field.
Given all the hype present currently on texting (e.g. this summer’s MBTA crash) and distracted driving in general, the position of the truckers is unacceptable. If only truck drivers were in danger from their actions, then so be it. But truck drivers occupy the roads with millions of other Americans, and reckless driving by a driver in a multi-ton 18-wheeler puts the lives of other drivers (truck and automobile) at tremendous risk.
I really have very low tolerance for such action, if we cannot transport our goods effectively and safely on the roads it is all the more reason to invest more in our freight railroads where drivers rarely intersect with the trains.