When railroad employees need to get to another station without delay, they often don’t take the train, they take a van. Companies who transport those employees are under rigorously strict safety standards overseen by both the railroads and the federal government.
Three of the rules for railroad transport vendors help prevent accidents that may arise from distracted driving. But they aren’t for professional drivers only — they can help you avoid accidents too. Consider the reasoning behind these three primary regulations:
No drinking or eating while driving
Have you ever seen a driver wobbling down the highway, steering with his knees while trying to wolf down a cheeseburger? Have you ever been that driver? How about coffee and soft drink spills: does a sudden splash of hot coffee in your lap affect your driving?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than one in ten drivers reports “always or almost always eating and drinking while driving.” It is tough enough to eat and walk. Eating and driving is a sure way to lose focus on the road and that is why these railroad transport professionals don’t do it.
No passengers in the front seat
Railroad crew members are directed to the rear passenger area. None are allowed to sit up front next to the driver. Moreover, all conversation between the driver and the crew is limited to necessary instructions. Why would that matter?
More teenagers die in automobile accidents each year than from any other cause and the likelihood of a crash increases almost 400 percent when other teenage passengers are in the car, notes the Centers for Disease Control. Adults may be more experienced than teens, but they are still affected by the presence of other passengers. If the driver is talking to a passenger, his or her attention to the demands of driving is diminished.
You may not choose to force every passenger in your car to take the back seat, but being aware of the danger may help keep your eyes on the road. Always remember this when driving: Stay alert to the road, not to your passengers.
Pull over to call or text
This is the one we hear about most often. From train wrecks caused by texting to data indicating up to a quarter of all traffic accidents involve a cell phone, technology meant to help us can sometimes get in the way of common sense, notes TextingandDriving.com. Those same statistics say a driver is drawn away from focusing on the road for at least five seconds when texting behind the wheel. At 60 mph, that means traveling almost a quarter of a mile with the vehicle virtually piloting itself.
By now, every driver has been warned (some by legislation) not to drive while texting or talking on a cell phone. Over a million phone-related crashes each year is plenty of reason to pay attention to the warning.
How to save money and stay alive
In 2012, more than 3,300 people were killed and 421,000 injured because of distracted driving. While the three rules set down for professional drivers point in the direction of the problem, they are not all-inclusive. Anything that takes your focus away from the responsibility of driving is a distraction. It could be a pet in the car, a garage sale sign, wandering thoughts — the list could go on indefinitely.
Before drivers can be licensed to transport railroad workers, they are required to take a course in driver safety. That is an excellent idea for every driver, whether beginning or veteran. Begin with a refresher course in basic rules. The New Jersey permit practice test, for instance, is a free online course. Then check with your automobile insurance provider. Chances are high they will not only direct you to a certified driving safety course, but will provide a discount on your insurance bill for taking it.
When you take steps to defeat distracted driving, you can save money and help prevent an accident that could cost you or someone dear to you something even more valuable: Life.
This article is from Don Richardson, an auto mechanic, safety blogger and father of three.