Talking to Passengers Raises Trucker Risk of Safety-Critical Events
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Talking to Passengers Raises Trucker Risk of Safety-Critical Events

Friday, April 07, 2017By Richard Alexander

Have you ever wondered whether talking to passengers creates a dangerous situation on the road? If so, you’re not alone. A report from the Virginia Technical Transportation Institute reviewed the effect of conversations with passengers on tractor-trailer drivers.

The researchers collected real-time data using monitoring systems onboard the trucks. Two cameras were used in each vehicle: one facing the road ahead and the other reviewing the driver and much of the cab of the truck. The systems also collected data about the truck and driver, such as speed, acceleration, and driver eye glances.

The monitoring systems operated 24/7 so that no data would be missed. Any time an "event" occurred, the system would record 30 seconds of data so it could be reviewed by a trained analyst. There were three triggers:

  • exceeding the speed limit;
  • exceeding defined criteria, such as by "hard braking, hard cornering, collision, rough road, etc."; and
  • the driver pressing a button to indicate distraction.

Analysts culled through the data to determine whether driver distraction by various factors was associated with safety critical events (SCEs). Of all the types of distraction they reviewed, one stood out: talking with passengers.

"Talking to passengers while driving significantly increased the likelihood of involvement in an SCE compared to . . . baselines." In other words, there was a statistically significant increase in SCEs when truckers were distracted by conversations with passengers.

The authors noted that some studies had found that either the conversation or a driver looking at his or her passenger might "create a safety deficit[]."

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