AAA: Hands-Free Devices Don’t Solve Distracted Driving Dangers

By Tanya Snyder

Researchers at the University of Utah and AAA found that using hands-free electronic devices and on-board technology can cause dangerous levels of driver distraction.

Distracted driving killed 3,331 people on American streets in 2011, yet car manufacturers continue to outdo each other to add more infotainment distractions in their vehicles. These systems are expected to increase five-fold by 2018, according to AAA. Carmakers seek to show their commitment to safety by making their distractions –onboard dinner reservation apps and social media, for example –hands-free. But a growing body of research indicates that there is no safe way to combine driving with tasks like dictating email or text messages.

AAA recently teamed up with experts at the University of Utah to conduct the most in-depth analysis to date of the impact of cognitive distractions on drivers’performance. They found that some hands-free technologies, like voice-to-text email, can be far more dangerous than even hand-held phone conversations. Unlike previous studies, they also found that conversations with passengers can be more distracting than those on the phone, but only if the passenger is kept unaware of what’s happening on the road. The researchers had subjects first perform a series of eight tasks, ranging from nothing at all to usage of various electronic devices to something called OSPAN, or operation span, which sets the maximum demand the average adult brain can handle. For the OSPAN, the researchers gave subjects words and math problems to recall later, in the same order, as a way to “anchor the high end of the cognitive distraction scale developed by the research team,” according to AAA’s Jake Nelson.

The subjects then performed these eight tasks while operating a driving simulator, and then while driving on residential streets in an “instrumented” vehicle that captures information about the driver’s eye movements and brain activity. In each environment, researchers studied how the additional tasks added to subjects’ “cognitive workload” and diminished their eye movements. They found that as drivers devote more mental energy to other tasks in addition to driving, the less observant they become, and the more they fail to scan for roadway hazards. This bolsters the conclusions of previous experiments: that when drivers are mentally distracted by some other task, they get tunnel vision. They keep their eyes fixed on the road in front of them to the exclusion of everything else —the rear-view mirror, side mirrors, and “safety critical roadside objects” and “cross traffic threats”—such as pedestrians.

The AAA study also found that greater “cognitive workloads” slow drivers’ reactions to events like a ball rolling in front of the car and a kid running out to catch it. (Reaction times were measured with the simulator, not the instrumented vehicle driving on real streets.)

The researchers conclude that hands-free communications can be significantly more distracting and dangerous for drivers to engage in than passive tasks like listening to music. Some activities, such as listening to the radio or a book on tape, are not very distracting. Other activities, such as conversing with a passenger or talking on a hand-held or hands-free cell phone, are associated with moderate/significant increases in cognitive distraction. Finally, there are in-vehicle activities, such as using a speech-to-text system to send and receive text or e-mail messages, which produced a relatively high level of cognitive distraction. The data suggest that a rush to voice-based interactions in the vehicle may have unintended consequences that adversely affect traffic safety.

The researchers note that of the eight tasks, only one required subjects to take their hands off the wheel (using the handheld phone), and none involved taking their eyes off the road, so the decreased attention and increased reaction times were are all attributable to cognitive distraction –something all the hands-free gizmos in the world can’t fix. Increased use of these distracting technologies contributes to a “looming public safety crisis,” said AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet in a statement. The study authors say they hope their findings will be used to craft “scientifically-based policies on driver distraction,” particularly in relation to cognitive distraction.

AAA’s recommendations include:

  • Limiting the use of voice-activated technology to core driving-related activities such as climate control, windshield wipers and cruise control, and ensuring that these applications do not lead to increased safety risk due to mental distraction while the car is moving.
  • Disabling certain uses of voice-to-text technologies including social media, e-mail and text messaging, so that they are inoperable while the vehicle is in motion.
  • Educating vehicle owners and mobile device users about the responsible use and safety risks of in-vehicle technologies.

The Great Outdoors: Tips for a Safe Summer

The sun is out and there is the feel of summer in the air. Many of us cannot wait to get outside and enjoy nature and the warm weather. Sometimes, though, the great outdoors can be not so great. Being prepared will ensure you the best and safest summertime experiences.

For example, we aren’t the only ones that are attracted to the warmer temperatures. Mosquitos, ticks and fleas thrive in the warmer climate. Mosquitoes can transmit West Nile virus. Ticks can transmit Lyme disease and other serious infections, and fleas can transmit plague. Before going outdoors, use an appropriate insect and tick repellent and apply it properly. If you find an attached tick, don’t panic. Ticks are easy to remove with a pair of fine-tipped tweezers. Consult your healthcare provider if you develop a rash, fever, body aches, or fatigue in the 1-3 weeks following a bite.

Be proactive and remove any items in your yard that may collect standing water, such as buckets, old tires, and toys where mosquitoes can breed. Reduce the number of ticks near your home by removing any leaf litter, brush piles and woodpiles around your house or at the edge of your yard. Also, replace or repair torn window screens to keep bugs out of the house. Using pesticides, maintaining vegetation-free play areas and utilizing landscaping techniques for tick-free zones can also help limit your exposure to ticks and other insects.

Gardening is a popular outdoor activity. Stay safe by always wearing gloves and using safety gear when handling equipment and chemicals as well as insect repellent. Also watch out for extreme heat and stay hydrated. If you feel overheated, simply go inside to cool down.

For some, a couple of hours outdoors can wreak havoc with their health. Pollens and air pollutants can be triggers for allergic reactions and asthma. Some experiences include nasal and sinus allergies and hives. Asthma can cause recurrent symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath and coughing. Consistently take any prescription or over-the-counter allergy medicine and have an asthma action plan to follow. Wearing a protective nose and mouth mask or protective eyewear can provide additional safey while doing yard work and can help avoid triggers that cause allergy and asthma complications at the same time.

Whether you are about to embark on a nature hike, go on a picnic or maintain your garden, there are definitely things you can do to protect yourself while outdoors.

2 Million Safe Miles

Werner Enterprises honored professional driver Jack Mock with the 2 million safe driving miles award at the 1st Quarter Associate Recognition Ceremony. Jack has driven for Werner for 24 years and has been described as true blue all the way through.

His dispatcher Don Hile shared these words of praise for Jack. “From an ever changing industry, you’ve been able to adapt and continue to be a productive asset for us. You are proof that when you do the small things right, big things will happen.”

Jack lives in Findlay, Ohio, with his wife of 50 years. He enjoys spending time with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Congratulations to Jack on his award. We appreciate all he does for Werner Enterprises.

June is National Safety Month

It’s National Safety Month, an annual observance sponsored by the National Safety Council. This year’s theme is “Safety Starts with Me.” This celebration comes at a perfect time to kick off a safe and injury-free start to the summer months. At Werner, we focus on many safety issues from accident and injury prevention to safe driving and the government’s Compliance, Safety and Accountability (CSA) program.

This week, keep your focus on injury prevention, but please don’t lose sight of other ongoing preventive measures such as accident prevention and CSA. Challenge yourself this month by looking in the mirror every morning and saying to yourself, “Safety starts with me.” After all, your safety should be a priority for you, for your family and for your Werner family.

Did you know that in the last three years, injuries resulting from entering and exiting the cab have consistently been one of the top three injury claims reported? In the past year, entering and exiting the cab injuries have also resulted in the highest cost per occurrence. Here are three simple tips to avoid these types of injuries.

  • Make sure all points of contact are free of debris and properly secured.
  • Wear proper footwear (no flip flops).
  • Keep both hands free to ensure you have a fourth point of contact if needed.

Memorial Day Travel Tips

Memorial Day weekend is upon us and that means many of us will be taking road trips and vacations. Before you hit the road, make sure to check our list of 5 road safety tips.

1. Have your car thoroughly checked before you leave to ensure it’s in top performance. Make sure tires are properly inflated as well.

2. Allow yourself enough rest before you get behind the wheel. Most adults need 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. If you don’t allow for proper rest time, you put your safety and the safety of others at risk. If you feel tired while driving, please pull over to a safe place and rest.

3. Keep a basic emergency kit in your car. It should include a pen, paper, maps, a first aid kit, flares, a blanket and a mini fire extinguisher. Keep your cell phone charged and carry tools needed to repair an unexpected flat tire or dead battery.

4. Remember, seat belts save lives. Always make sure you wear your seat belt and any children traveling with you should use seat belts or be securely strapped in a car seat.

5. Do not use your cell phone while behind the wheel. Do not text while driving. If you must use your cell phone for any reason, simply pull over. Your attention at all times should be on the road for your safety, the safety of your passengers and the safety of all motorists around you.

2013 Click It or Ticket Campaign

The 2013 Click It or Ticket enforcement campaign runs from May 20 – June 2. In an effort to save more lives on America’s roadways, state and local law enforcement agencies are teaming up across the nation to crack down on motorists who are not buckling up. Wearing a seat belt is the single most effective way to reduce fatalities in motor vehicle crashes. Motorists should buckle up every time they go out. This includes both day and night (statistics show that nighttime drivers are less likely to buckle up compared to daytime drivers) and even on quick, short trips. Take the next two weeks to remind yourself and everyone you come in contact with to stay safe and always click it to avoid a ticket! Seat belts save lives.

Road Team: Mentor Spotlight

This week’s Road Team Mentor spotlight is Tim Dean. Tim, a driver in the van network, has driven for Werner for 25 years. He has been very active in the industry over the years. He was named a captain on America’s Road Team from 2009-2010 and has been a Werner Road Team Captain since 2005, currently serving as a Road Team Mentor. In addition, he is a six-time Nebraska State Truck Driving Class Champion. Tim has also received the award for three million safe driving miles.

Tim and his family currently reside in Griswold, Iowa.

Earth Day at Werner

Werner Enterprises proudly hosted its annual Earth Day event on Friday, April 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Steve Phillips, senior vice president of operations, was present to speak at the event regarding Werner’s continued focus on sustainability.

In addition, the event showcased vehicles with alternative fuel engines including a Werner CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) truck. There were also several educational booths hosted by conservation specialists to inform associates of the latest ways to save energy, conserve water and recycle. Experts from several Werner departments also were present to discuss “green” tips and initiatives, and the Company sponsored tree raffles and seed giveaways.

As a leading innovator in energy conservation, Werner strives for a cleaner, more energy-efficient environment. In the last five years, Werner has conserved more than 70 million gallons of fuel and reduced its carbon footprint by more than 800,000 tons. Werner’s goal is to continue to excel even higher for future generations.

April is Injury Prevention Month

In honor of Injury Prevention Month, we would like to address lifting as the third leading cause of work comp injuries. The third leading cause of work comp injuries occurs while lifting. These injuries include strains and pulls to numerous muscle groups including the arms, shoulders, neck, back, and legs. Injury claims of this type can be very expensive due to the complexity of the injuries. For example, neck and back injuries impact multiple areas and can be extremely costly. Rehabilitation can require a long period of time to complete as well. Dodge these and other types of injuries by checking out the prevention tips below:

Stretching and using proper lifting techniques are two of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce lifting injuries.

• Prepare your body for physical activity by increasing blood flow to stiff muscles and joints after long periods of driving. Walk around before lifting to help loosen muscles.
• Arms and shoulders can be stretched out while walking as well to make the most of your time.
• Do deep knee bends and toe touches to help prepare the leg and back muscles for lifting.

Proper Technique:
• Bend at the knees and use your legs to lift, relieving any strain on the back muscles.
• Keep items close to the body, reducing arm and shoulder strain while improving balance.
• Lift one large item at a time to avoid overexertion.

Success: It’s all in the planning

You know what it is you truly hope to accomplish in your life. And ultimately it is up to you to make it happen. Whether it’s paying off debt, finishing that home improvement project or implementing a new program at work, you should have a plan. A plan helps you to evaluate, arrange and balance your time and efforts to ensure you are pursuing the goals that are most important to you.

Develop a strategic plan in order to obtain desired results. While a strategy of this nature is often geared towards your career as a professional, it can be just as relevant as a framework for goals in your personal life as well. One can follow this five-step process in order to create a strategic plan:

  • Determine an overall vision-decide what you truly want to achieve in life
  • Create a purpose statement-define how you will achieve this vision
  • Develop goals-set a time frame for you to achieve this vision
  • Measure your progress-track your performance on a daily or weekly basis
  • Take action-allocate time for you to pursue your vision

Once you have designed your plan, you can then base decisions regarding any new situations according to how they will impact your vision. You can determine if they will help you to move closer to your vision or if they will set you back. By consistently reviewing your plan, you can keep in touch with your own vision and give it more than lip service. You can envision it happening and track your progress to make sure it does.

Copyright 2017 Werner Enterprises

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