Institute releases findings on bus, truck driver distractions

Findings from a new naturalistic study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in Blacksburg show truck and bus drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash if they are reaching for or dialing a cell phone.

The study was based on data from 13,000 commercial motor vehicles collected over a one-year period. Data showed 1,075 crashes, 8,375 near crashes and 30,661 crash-relevant conflicts. Researchers concluded:

  • The act of talking on a cell phone did not show an increased risk, although the steps drivers take to use their cell phone does increase crash risk.
  • Truck and bus drivers who dialed a cell phone while operating their vehicle increased their odds by 3.5 times of being in a crash, compared with drivers who were not dialing a cell phone.
  • The odds of being in a crash or safety-critical event were 1.1 times greater while the driver was using a cell phone than when the driver was not.
In response, the National Safety Council said the study has many limitations, among them being that it was conducted with truck and bus fleets that have purchased onboard safety monitoring systems for the purpose of preventing unsafe driver behavior. "These commercial drivers are the 'best of the best' and their behavior is likely not indicative or representative of the general driving public. It would be dangerous to draw conclusions about the distraction of phone use while driving from this study or any single study with similar limitations," said Dave Teater, senior director of Transportation Initiatives for the council.

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