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A conference in Washington, D.C. this week is looking into “distractions while driving.” One area of discussion is whether the drivers of big trucks should be able to keep laptop computers--and other gadgets they use for communication purposes—in the cabs of their trucks. KSMU’s Jennifer Moore reports.
Safety experts are concerned that truckers, who often work under strict delivery deadlines, may not be pulling over like they’re supposed to before using the computers which are now commonplace in their cabs.
Debora Biggs, executive director of the Safety Council of the Ozarks, says she would approach truckers and their computers in a similar way to folks who text while driving in smaller vehicles. She says the best thing for any driver to do is to pull over before using electronics.
There’s even talk at the national level about including truckers and their computers in any legislation that would ban texting while driving.
To see what possible distractions do exist in the cab of a big truck, we headed out to ask a veteran trucker.
[SOUND: Truck starting up]
We met up with Pat McGuire of O&S Trucking in Springfield, and had a look inside his cab. He had a laptop computer with a 14-inch screen which he uses for GPS and directions, as well as a separate device with its own keypad and smaller screen, through which he communicates with his dispatcher.
McGuire said he only glances at the screen of the laptop for directions while driving, but does not type on the keypad. He added that when he receives a message on the other device, he pulls over at a truck stop or rest area to check it and reply.
[Sound: Horn Honking]
And for those of you asking yourselves, “What happened to the good ol’ days of truckers communicating by “Breaker-breaker, 1-9” and “10-4, Good buddy?” Well, those old C-B radios have, for some time, been considered a thing of the past.
McGuire said while he’s well aware of the damage his 80,000 pound vehicle could inflict if he were in an accident, truckers, he says, shouldn’t be singled out for distracted driving.
He says in his 17 years of driving, he's seen people in cars applying makeup, fixing breakfast, and reading a book while driving.
The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute completed a survey this year looking at distracted driving in big rigs. It found that someone driving a heavy truck who reached for or used an electronic device is 6.7 times more likely to have a crash or come close to it as a non-distracted truck driver.
For KSMU News, I’m Jennifer Moore.
[Sound: Truck engine turning off]