Friday, February 17, 2012

‘Distraction guidelines’ are … hold on! Gotta Facebook.

So I’m driving down the road and my Twitter informs me that the U.S. DOT has issued guidelines to automakers in an effort to curb distracted driving.

Hold on a sec. I’ll describe them to you after I retweet the story. There we go …

OK, where was I? Oh yeah, driving, and describing the DOT’s guidelines to automakers to keep the public’s attention focused on safe driving.

Hold on again. I got a voice message from the wife. She’s going to be home late from work. Don’t’ worry, it was a voice text and not a “text” text. OK, back to the discussion.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has rolled out a list of guidelines to automakers (LOL! A funny cat video on YouTube!) to limit the operation of electronic devices that are making their way into vehicles as standard features or options.

Did you know they are making cars that have Facebook and YouTube apps right on the dash? Yep. Drivers of passenger vehicles including light trucks and SUVs can browse the web on a built-in touch screen and make dinner reservations while they (Stop sign!!) drive.

That was a close one. Anyway, what I’m saying is these guidelines will hopefully reduce the time that a driver’s eyes and focus are away from the road.

Where did I put that that gum I just bought? I think it’s here in the console somewhere.

Phase one of the guidelines (because more will soon be posted on the DOT’s Facebook and Twitter pages) will limit device operation to one hand only (while the other stays on the wheel) and reduce look time away from the wheel to no more than two seconds.

Remember what the DOT said when big, bad truckers were supposedly texting all over the place: Anything that takes a driver’s focus away from the task – even eating a hamburger or putting on makeup – was a distraction.

The rule that banned texting and driving for truckers, and the follow-up rule banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, were justified because, according to studies, a texting driver can have his or her eyes off the road for four seconds at a time, enough time to cover the length of a football field at 55 mph.

But according to the guidelines released to automakers on Thursday, Feb. 16, it’s going to be OK for John Q. Public to Facebook on his dash screen as long as he only takes his eyes off the road for two seconds at a time. So that would be, like, half a football field.

I understand that the DOT is in a bind. The automakers are only giving the public what they want. The bells and whistles are selling points for them (kind of like how they sell cars that can go 150 mph even though the speed limit is half that or lower). In an electronic age, the cars with the most gadgets are more desirable.

But common sense must prevail. The individual behind the wheel, no matter what vehicle he or she is driving, must remain diligent and attentive to the primary task.

This blog has contained quite a bit of satire (Editor’s note: I’m not reading, Facebooking or tweeting while driving!), but I’m going to conclude with some serious statements.

“As an organization focused on safety, including safety on our roadways, we want to make sure these new systems don’t take eyes or hands away from the only task that matters when you're in the driver’s seat: driving safely,” DOT officials stated on the Fastlane blog.

We couldn’t agree more with that.

And about texting, truckers are OK with the ban because they recognize the danger. They just want an even playing field as four-wheelers full of gadgets buzz around them. Truckers are also finding a way to operate despite the ban on hand-held cellphones even if they disagree with some of the justifications behind that particular rule.

To say that truckers could be a little miffed, or at least baffled, that four-wheelers can have touch screens and Facebook while they can’t even call their delivery customers on a cellphone could be a bit of an understatement.

Professional truckers are among the safest drivers, if not the safest, on the road today. Some are going to break the rules, and there are consequences and punishments for those as outlined in the rules and regs.

I think we can all agree that if you’re driving, no matter what vehicle you’re operating, you need to be safely focused on the roadway.

It’s going to be a battle of mind-over-matter for someone surrounded by the latest and greatest gadgetry, and society is going to have to bear the consequences.


  1. I agree that something needs to be done.Regulations are popping up all over the place as far as trucks are concerned but the toyota that just flew by me with a laptop mounted on the console and on and a cell phone plastered to the drivers ear and the driver holding some papers in his hand and reading them is untouched.
    I recently got some flak from a DOT officer over the electronics in my cab(cell phone,laptop running gps and logs,and a trip computer showing mileage run,average speed and so on)
    He informed me that was too many distractions and i should remove some of them.I made the mistake of asking him about the electronics in his work vehicle and the fact that he enters data into his laptop while driving and I was informed that he is a professional and needs to do this for public safety.Oh well, I was due for a level 1 inspection anyway lol

  2. The regulators 'pick on' whatever their peeve is. They may do this with good intentions and a clear conscience, but they do it nonetheless.

    So let's illustrate this with some other examples. What about the distractions from....
    >Reading those changing roadside signs - both billboards and DOT informational or construction signs? Is DOT going to prohibit drivers from reading those?
    >Monitoring dashboard gauges - lot of seconds of eyes off the road there....
    >Cigarette smoking in the cab (seems there is a song that explains how the fire fell off of his cigar and dropped on down and sort of rolled around and lit in the cuff of Earl's pants and burned a hole in his sock - pay no attention to the guitar there." So this seems to be no problem
    As we can see, certain behavior is 'picked on' because it doesn't offend whoever is writing the legislation. What's next?

    Danny (in Pasadena, TX)

  3. It is easy to pass laws that make a truck drivers life more miserable than it needs to be. The lawmakers know nothing about what we do and they can do it without offending many voters. Who isn't for truck safety or clean air as long as it doesn't effect them?

    All of these crackdowns on truckers just add more stress to an already stressful job. So I'm talking to my wife on the cell and she's the only person I talked to all day that actually cares weather I live or die. I come into heavy traffic I say I gota go I'm getting into heavy traffic. Common sense. So I have a brake out of adjustment. Big deal I have brakes for 80,000 pounds and my load is only 40,000. I am on the way home and I can get it fixed by a mechanic I trust for half the money. I know there is a problem so I take it easy.

    Forty years never hurt anybody on the highway. Some bureaucrat can stop me and with a pen take my livelihood away or fine me thousands of dollars. I'm broke most of the time and any money they take from me really hurts. I spent $1600 on repairs since the first of the year.

    Other drivers in my company don't keep their logbook up the DOT stops me and treats me like a criminal. So I forget to put my load number on my log. How does that make me an unsafe driver? Sorry to ramble on but I feel like it is open season on truckers.


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