LaHood: ‘Obsessed’ with Texting in Trucking – But What Proof

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Ray LaHood became the US Secretary of Transportation on January 23rd, 2009. Obama nominated him saying: “Few understand our infrastructure challenge better than the outstanding public servant that I’m asking to lead the Department of Transportation.”

In the first seven months not a word is mentioned about trucks or much of the infrastructure, but a whole lot of money sure floated around planes and trains were the hot topics. And they received a lot of the money too. And one of the things that is beyond me is how the Department of Transportation is connected to “housing” yea the kind you live in. But LaHood has somehow added “livability” to his long list of bizarre ideas he comes up with.

August the 12th, 2009 the secretary first mentioned anything about distracted driving announcing the summit he held in September 2009 for distracted driving. He has been “obsessed” with distracted driving ever since – mainly texting and driving especially in the trucking industry. This is the first time I had seen the secretary even mention anything to do with trucking. January 26th, 2010 he handed a decree down of “no texting” by commercial bus or truck drivers.

We all agree that the use of a cell phone – without a hands free device – while driving is dangerous. Texting and driving, you would assume is even more dangerous because of the fact most people have to take their eyes off the road and a hand or hands off the steering wheel in order to do this. But what proof of this has Ray LaHood received in order to just up and place a ban on texting and driving for commercial drivers?

This morning I saw an article listed in a fellow twitter user’s blog titled “NHTSA Releases Top 10 Causes of a Car Accident” so I ventured to read it. Upon reading there was a list from one through ten top causes of car crashes. The top thing to cause a car crash was found that reaching for a moving object (dropped phone, spilled drink, etc.) was twice as dangerous as any other non-driving task. “Texting” according to that list was number five. But I really couldn’t see any relevance to trucking and texting so I set out to research the causes of large truck crashes.

I searched and found this “Large Truck Crash Causation Study” (LTCCS) it was a study to examine the reasons for serious crashes involving large trucks (trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating over 10,000 pounds). The study ran between April 2001 and December 2003, 120,000 large truck crashes occurred. Each crash in the LTCCS sample involved at least one large truck and resulted in a fatality or injury.

Hundreds of associated factors were collected for each vehicle in each crash. In descending order, the top
Ten factors coded for large trucks and their drivers were:

  • Brake problems
  • Traffic flow interruption (congestion, previous crash)
  • Prescription drug use
  • Traveling too fast for conditions
  • Unfamiliarity with roadway
  • Roadway problems
  • Required to stop before crash (traffic control device, crosswalk)
  • Over-the-counter drug use
  • Inadequate surveillance
  • Fatigue.
  • Notes: Results shown are national estimates for the 141,000 large trucks estimated to have been involved in fatal and injury crashes during the study period. The estimates may differ from true values, because they are based on a probability sample of crashes and not a census of all crashes. Estimates are rounded to the nearest 1,000 large trucks.

    Of the top 10 associated factors coded for large trucks, 3 do not appear in Table 2. For those three associated factors—traffic flow interruption, prescription drug use, and required to stop before crash—there was no significant difference in the frequency at which trucks with and without the factors were coded with the critical reason for a crash.

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    There was also another list for what LTCCS deemed from 1 through 10 as the most causes of crashes between a large truck vs a car. For both large trucks and passenger vehicles, there was a statistically significant link between the following 10 associated factors (listed in descending order according to how often they were coded for the large truck) and coding of the critical reason:

  1. Interruption of the traffic flow
  2. Unfamiliarity with roadway
  3. Inadequate surveillance
  4. Driving too fast for conditions
  5. Illegal maneuver
  6. Inattention
  7. Fatigue
  8. Illness
  9. False assumption of other road user’s actions
  10. Distraction by object or person inside the vehicle.

Again texting is not mentioned, but distraction by object or person inside the vehicle is number 10.

The most recent study was conducted by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). They concluded that a truck driver was 23 times more likely to cause an accident while driving a tractor trailer and texting. But the study was ONLY done on 203 CMV drivers and 55 trucks from seven trucking fleets. Out of 3.5 million truck drivers on the road today. And they also included in their findings “near misses” as accidents in fact it was 46 percent near misses. Out of a total of 4,452 crashes, near misses, crash relevant conflict, and unintentional lane deviations. A near miss according to Dictionary.com is:

  1. a strike by a missile that is not a direct hit but is close enough to damage the target.
  2. an instance of two vehicles, aircraft, etc., narrowly avoiding a collision.
  3. something that falls narrowly short of its object or of success: an interesting movie, but a near miss.

A “near miss” is in fact not an accident and therefore cannot be used to determine an accident. So in other words this most recent report should be thrown out as it only viewed a very small number of trucks, and used information that is irrelevant to causing an accident.

So what information did Ray LaHood use to base the relevancy for his decree he set forth on the trucking industry? As far as I can tell just the VTTI study and as you can see it is full of discrepancies.

In a March 31st article from OOIDA Director of Regulatory Affairs Joe Rajkovacz said: “It’s fascinating to read this. They refer to public opinion polls that are in favor, and they actually admit to not having any studies that implicate CMV drivers and crash causation with texting.” Rajkovacz said laws already exist to deal with inattentive or reckless driving and should be enforced.

And if that’s not enough to ruffle your American feathers, the fine for doing this can be up to $2,750.00 which I say is unconstitutional according to Amendment 8 – Cruel and Unusual Punishment. Ratified 12/15/1791. Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

I say its high time for our US Secretary of Transportation to get focused on highway infrastructures deteriorating the way they are and with all the congestion around every major city. Why does the government seem to just “turn their heads” the other way from trucking unless they want more money?

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I'm just a EX-truck driver, trying to pass along a little information. I been in the Trucking Industry as a driver for over 15 years. I have driven both as an owner operator and as a company driver. I have also been a driver instructor for an accredited truck driving school in KY. I am no longer a truck driver, but I consider myself to be a watchdog for the trucking industry. In fact this site is the #1 site for getting the real news about trucking. We don't hold back here, you will hear the full story. Twitter | |Truck Drivers News Facebook
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2 Responses to LaHood: ‘Obsessed’ with Texting in Trucking – But What Proof

  1. Erik Wood says:

    My three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me last fall by a texting driver. It changed me but I don’t hate texting. The way I see it, that would be like hating nightfall – its coming no matter what. 72% of teens text every single day – some over 3000 times a month. The texting drivers I spoke with, including teens and truckers, all said that laws and Big Brother type software devices that “lock down” their phones would not deter them at all. They feel their civil liberties slipping away. So I built a tool called OTTER for the individual to help manage their texting on their terms.

    OTTER is a comprehensive text management system for the home, office and certainly, the highway. It has GPS based Parental Control Feature for teen drivers, a GPS Mode for adult who choose to use it and an Auto reply with unlimited customized responses. We are getting 4.5 to 5 star rating from the tech community and great response from teen groups and safety organizations. We have heard of teens and business people alike using OTTER to schedule their own “texting blackout periods” so they can get some focused work done without feeling disconnected from their social network. If a someone uses OTTER like this, then we think they will see the benefit of OTTER’s road safety features. We are not going to stop until change hits our roads and not just our laws. Please give us your feedback.

    Best,
    Erik Wood, owner
    OTTER LLC
    http://www.OTTERapp.com

  2. Pingback: Ray LaHood: ‘No Texting’ while Driving – Big Brother says Otherwise

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