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Driver distraction increases your risk of getting into a crash. In fact, a 2009 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration revealed that 71 percent of large-truck crashes occurred when the truck driver was distracted by or engaging in something other than driving the truck.

Billboards and other advertisements near the road are one of the most common distractions. However, anything that takes your attention away from safely driving the truck can be a distraction.

Distractions can originate from both inside and outside of your truck cab. Distractions inside of your cab can include dialing cell phones, texting, using dispatching devices, eating, drinking, reading or adjusting the radio. Distractions outside of your cab can include staring at passing buildings, monuments, billboards or people.

Below are five tips that will help you keep your eyes on the road ahead and make your journey safer.

#1: Avoid Texting While Driving

In order to read or compose and send a text message, you must use your hands, eyes, and mind, thereby taking your full attention off the task of driving. This makes texting one of the most dangerous activities to engage in while driving a truck. A 2009 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration found that text messaging while driving increased a driver’s chances of being involved in a safety-critical event by 23 times. It also uncovered that in the moments before a safety-critical event, drivers who were texting while driving spent nearly 5 seconds looking at their cell phone.

#2: Avoid Using a Dispatching Device While Driving

Often called mobile or portable data terminals, dispatching devices can help make a trucker’s job easier. These devices allow you and your dispatchers to communicate, as well as help you navigate and maintain your logs. But, like texting on a mobile phone, using a dispatching device while driving can be dangerous because the dispatching device requires you to take your eyes, hands and focus away from the road. Since using a dispatching device while driving raises the risk of an accident, many trucking companies have usage policies in place or lockout features when the truck is in operation.

#3: Avoid Using a Handheld Phone While Driving

Dialing a hand-held cell phone involves multiple distractions. Making a call requires you to take your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel, increasing the risk of a crash.

If you have to make a call while driving, find a safe place to pull over and stop. As an alternative, use a voice-activated hands-free smartphone that does not require you to hold it and dial a number in order to make a call. Most smartphones either have the hands-free capability or have apps available to enable it.

#4: Avoid Reading, Writing or Using Printed Maps While Driving

Using printed directions, written notes and paper maps to navigate to your destination might be part of the job, but reading them while driving increases your risk of being in an accident. If you need to read something important or take down some notes, the best thing to do is pull over and stop the truck.

Compared to maps, GPS units pose less of a distraction — as long as you do NOT try to enter an address while driving. Many of these units give audible directions to help you navigate and allow you to enter an address with your voice only, so you don’t have to look at the GPS screen at all. Always make sure you enter the address into the unit before hitting the road.

#5: Avoid Eating and Drinking When Driving

A 2006 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that eating while driving was actually riskier than talking on a cell phone. Eating while driving involves multiple distractions since you have to remove one of your hands from the wheel to hold the food and focus part of your attention on biting into it. Eat a full meal before getting behind the wheel so you don’t feel the temptation to snack while driving.

Keep it Simple:  Keep Your Eyes on the Road Ahead

Driver awareness starts with paying attention only to things that are related to driving your truck safely. When in doubt, remember this: If something is taking your eyes away from the road ahead of you, then it is probably a distraction and should be ignored or avoided. Staying 100% focused on the task of driving can help keep you, and everyone on your path, safe on the road.

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