Readers sound off on cell-phone use
First things first. Thanks to all who responded to my request in the last issue for feedback on how cell-phone use in moving vehicles should be addressed by the trucking industry. And, I might add, I was thrilled that every single one of those responses came in by email.
Back to the issue at hand. No sooner had our July issue been packed up and sent off to the printer then word arrived that the New York legislature had voted to make the state the first major jurisdiction to ban the use of hand-held cell phones in vehicles.
I had my say last month and I'm sticking with what I said then. But have a look at what a couple of readers had to say on a topic that is keeping so many people talking.
Wayne Burgess sent in a very real-world perspective from Warsaw, VA. He writes that it “seems everybody wants cars and trucks parked on the side of the road while they use their phones. That sounds real safe, doesn't it? An exit ramp is not always nearby when you really need it, is it? Besides, you know how cops always love for you to park on or near an interstate highway. The problem is, Dave, that we have too many know-it-alls, both federal and state, passing more laws that don't do a thing to correct the poor driving habits that most car drivers seem to pick up after they get their driver's licenses. I've seen some real poor truck drivers lately, too…”
Sue Pickerign, transportation safety director of CHS Cooperatives, sent in a detailed response that gets to the heart of the issue for truckers.
“I have been following the cell-phone situation also,” Pickerign writes, “as I feel it is a huge safety issue and I appreciate that it is not being focused on the professional driver…Our drivers have complained of the distracted drivers on cell phones in passenger cars. They also state that if they see someone driving while talking on their cell, they watch that car a little closer. I personally see people driving with glazed-over eyes while talking on a cell phone, not noticing the vehicles around them.
“I agree with you that this is a double-edged sword — cell phones are an essential link for the commercial driver to keep in contact with his employer, customers and family, as well as for emergency use,” she continues. “It would hurt the transportation industry to ban cell phone use altogether. However, I do look at this as more of a victory for the commercial drivers, as they [government] are finally doing something to curb the dangerous habits of the driving public.
“I support the use of hands-free options for using a cell phone in a vehicle, but I could not support the banning of cell phones in a vehicle as I don't think banning cell phone use is the answer,” Pickerign contends. “If a driver is distracted with a hands-free phone set, then something else would distract them — the radio, CD player, the kids, whatever.
“I am preparing an article to update our drivers and ask for their opinion on this subject. They are on the road all the time, and their input is essential. What I will ask them is if they have ever had a ‘near miss’ or a ‘close call’ with another vehicle where the driver was using a cell phone. Then I will ask for examples. From the comments I have heard so far, I think their input will be alarming, and should be educational for our regulators.”
Pickerign closes by asking if FLEET OWNER has gathered any data directly from professional drivers on their experiences with dangerous cell-phone use. Regrettably, we have not. But we are certainly open to hearing from other readers who may have already surveyed their drivers on this timely and important topic. Just let me know.