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Driver distraction for all vehicle types is an area of concern across the surface transportation industry, as indicated by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at the 2010 Distracted Driv- ing Summit. Calling distracted driving an âepidemic,â he characterized it as âunsafe, irre- sponsible, and, in a split second, its consequences can be devastating.â The rise of basic cell phone useâitself a major potential source of distractionâhas been followed by the rapid pro- liferation of smart phones, aftermarket navigation systems [e.g., global positioning systems (GPS)], and iPad-type devices, all of which are more text-oriented, leading to the added issue of texting while driving. In addition to the basic driving task, the nature of operating a commercial truck or motor coach may introduce additional distractions, relating to areas such as weigh-in-motion sys- tems and passenger interactions. Reporting the state of research and practice was the purpose of this synthesis study, draw- ing on the large body of research that has focused on the many facets of distracted driving, as well as through structured interviews with fleet representatives and manufacturers of related products. The intent was to examine both distractions as well as any protective (i.e., safety- enhancing) effects of particular devices. The specific goals of the study were to: (1) review related literature, with a particular focus on countermeasures for driver distraction; (2) survey motor carrier and motor coach man- agers to identify fleet managers willing to participate in the structured interview portion of the project; (3) identify, through structured interviews with fleet managers, current and poten- tial tactics and training methodologies to aid motor carriers and drivers in avoiding crashes through awareness of dangerous actions and possible countermeasures; and (4) identify gaps in knowledge and research needs. For purposes of this synthesis study, distracted driving for commercial drivers was defined as attending to tasks not directly related to operating the vehicle. Integrated displays and con- trols implemented by the vehicle manufacturer were considered as part of vehicle operation. This was also true of reading and comprehending roadside signage. Therefore, the specific distraction sources examined were: 1. Internal sources â¢ Vehicle-based: communications devices, aftermarket active safety systems, onboard entertainment systems, GPS navigation systems, and dispatching devices; and â¢ Job-based: passenger interactions in buses and trucks. 2. External sources â¢ Weigh-in-motion or vehicle-in-motion inspections. Based on the results of the literature review, a screening survey was developed that was distributed to motor carrier and motor coach managers. The survey garnered 34 responses from motor carriers, with large and small fleets represented. Based on the willingness of some SUMMARY DISTRACTED DRIVING COUNTERMEASURES FOR COMMERCIAL VEHICLES
survey respondents, 13 follow-up interviews were conducted as structured interviews to understand fleet manager views of distracted driving and review any countermeasures they have put in place to reduce the risk of crashes related to distraction. There were 13 responses from the motor coach representatives, with large and small fleets represented. No follow-up interviews were arranged. Distraction is a cause for concern for all commercial drivers. As to the sources of distrac- tion, researchers have found eyes-off-road to be a more compelling measure than the nature of the distraction. Relating this to hand-held cell phones, manual tasks are noted as risky. With respect to hands-free phones, research findings are inconclusive. Notably, texting is especially risky. Regarding job-related electronics, lock-out features, those designed to shut down cell phones or screens when a truck is in motion, are increasingly available to fleets. The following conclusions were based on the literature review, surveys, and interviews. Although the combination of driver monitoring and collision warning has been shown to be effective in mitigating the effects of distraction, there exists the possibility of a driver âgamingâ or rigging the system and engaging in more secondary tasks owing to the presence of a support system, creating an opposite effect. As to the human interface, the vehicle industry can potentially benefit from advances in humanâmachine interface from the consumer electronics industry. Research studies have increased the knowledge base as to the interaction between drivers and support systems, which will be important to the good design of these systems. As to best practices at the company level, clarity within the organization as to safety cul- ture and clear messages is important. At the employee level, careful hiring, thorough train- ing, attending to wellness, driver rewards, and remedial practices when incidents occur are all important pieces of the puzzle. For motor carrier representatives, there was wide agreement that driver distraction from all sources is a significant safety issue. In terms of behaviors, personal activities (e.g., eating and grooming) are seen as major distraction sources, as well as reaching for objects and map reading. Talking, texting, and dialing on a hand-held phone were also seen as distracting. As to which types of devices are distracting, personal electronic devices received the strongest response. Job-related devices and GPS navigation systems also received many responses. Approximately one-quarter of the group believed that aftermarket active safety systems were a source of distraction. External to the company, the motor carrier industry respondents strongly supported laws prohibiting cell phone use while driving. Internal to the company, these same respondents believed that having a strong safety culture was the most important countermeasure. Partici- pation in national programs such as a Responsible Care program was noted as being part of establishing a strong safety culture, from which a distracted driving policy can be derived. In addition, the FMCSA Compliance, Safety, Accountability initiative was reported by some as being helpful. The structured interview discussions indicated that larger fleets are more likely to have clear cell phone use policies. In the group interviewed, some smaller fleets prohibited cell phone use, whereas others discouraged it or had no policy. Careful hiring, plus clear employee policies and consequences for violations, were also seen as very important. Post-incident coaching was strongly supported as well. Internal to the vehicle, the strongest response was to implement âlock-outâ functions on company devices when the vehicle is being driven, although for some fleets blanking the screen would interfere with navigation. Other features enable a driver to receive messages 2
relayed by computer voice through the vehicle speakers or allow for a single button push to inform the dispatch that the driver is currently on the road. In two of the structured interviews it was noted that managers use performance bonuses to encourage compliance with distrac- tion policies. There was strong support for banning the use of all personal communications devices, using active safety systems, and ensuring the careful and nondistracting placement of after- market devices in the driver area. There was strong opposition to the use of hand-held cell phones by drivers, and opinions were mixed as to allowing hands-free cell phones. With regard to automatic video monitoring, several managers noted that these systems help to enforce compliance and augment their ride-along observations; some barriers noted were shipper prohibitions to having any cameras enter their facilities and cost. The greatest driver acceptance issues have arisen regarding automatic video monitoring. Although these systems only record based on trigger events, the perception can persist within the driver ranks that they are constantly being watched. One manager sees these driver misconceptions as âa fact of life.â All three modes of communicating information to the driver (audible, visual, and haptic) by means of devices not integrated into the vehicle, are seen as effective. Audible alerts were viewed as the most effective, and the use of graded warnings was strongly supported. As a final point, it was noted that it is difficult to place strong prohibitions on commercial motor vehicle drivers alone and not the general publicâif a distraction is dangerous for any driver it is dangerous for every driver. With regard to automatic video monitoring, several managers noted these that systems help to enforce compliance and augment their ride-along observations. 3