The Big Story Blog

Pro drivers say distracted driving dangers real

Posted at 1:29 PM on December 14, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Transportation

Professional drivers have seen it all when it comes to cell phone use and distracted driving. Minnesotans who make their living behind the wheel shared a few stories and views with us this morning via the MPR News Public Insight Network.

Here's a sampling.

Ron Runeborg, professional driver

I drive for a living so I'm on the road much of every day and there's no doubt electronic gadgets have increased reckless driving. I am amazed how often I see someone doing something stupid and work to get out of their reach only to note as I pass they're on the phone or clicking away at some box between their hands.

Personally I don't own a cell phone so I suppose my comments could be seen as biased, but I think if people just can't be disconnected from their umbilical cords in order to raise the percentage of their being able to get from here to there without an accident we may as well allow television sets to be installed in rear view mirrors.

Todd Eddy, city bus driver

My first impression of the NTSB recommendation is that it goes maybe a bit too far and that enforcement might open a can of worms.

I have fewer reservations about restrictions on texting, which seems to me unarguably dangerous. One can envision a device that would translate spoken words into text messages, thus eliminating the need for typing.

Ironically, even though texting seems more hazardous than simply talking, it's probably harder to detect by law enforcement, because the phone isn't necessarily visible and the texter may not be looking at it.

I'm trying to imagine how such laws could be enforced effectively and fairly, while still respecting people's privacy rights, and I'm having trouble seeing it. Perhaps the law enforcement community will surprise me.

I'm all for traffic safety, and I'm willing to believe the experts, to a point, when they say cell phone distraction has increased the dangers of driving. On the other hand, I think access to a phone while one is driving is a pretty big quality-of-life issue for many people, and it would be hard to give up. I don't like phoning while driving, and I never text, so this would be no big deal for me. But this seems like a problem better addressed from the technology side than from the legal side.

Don Holzschuh, truck driver

Being higher up while driving I'm able to see more of what people are doing. I've seen people working on their computers,talking on their phones and it's not uncommon. Watching DVDs while driving.

My feeling there is to much technology in the cars from DVDs to GPS, Its a distraction. What people tend to forget is that you can die from driving. With the higher speeds on our roads you really need to pay more attention to your surroundings.

What drives me crazy are people talking on their cell-phones while merging (are people capable of merging on to a freeway in this state?) on to the freeway. 90% of the time these people don't even look to merge they are to busy talking. I'd say about 50% to 65% people I come across driving are on the phone. I'd say its more women than men.

I'm forced to drive more defensive. I can usually spot the ones on the phone they drive slower, some wander in their lanes. My truck only goes 62 mph so I end up having to pass them on the freeway,. Several things happen while doing this, the car speeds up just a little so my noise doesn't interrupt their call or they hang up and speed away. The government is going to make it illegal for us to use the phone without hands free. The fine will be $2,400 and it will go against our CDL.

Myself I wish they would ban cell phones I think its dangerous. People just aren't thinking with these devices it makes them even more oblivious to the outside world. Some people have a hard time driving as it is. Or make the hands free head set ,which I use mandatory. I do think that when people are on the phone the tend to forget about their surroundings, You've probably experience this with people in stores,or on the sidewalk etc,etc.

I don't think the states will ban them though. Maybe, making the mobile phone companies liable for damages in accidents would help. Or make it if you get in an accident while on the phone make it similar to a DWI penalties All I know it's becoming extremely challenging driving with all these people on cell phones-computers-DVD players etc etc. Enough is enough

Steve Law, bus driver

The statistics demonstrate the problem, but the root of it is our driver education system is awful. I am in the process of training my third teenager and as far as classroom and behind the wheel, I'd give the various training facilities a "C" at best. I'm not an expert at education, but we should put some of our best minds on this issue.

If we could focus on education instead of regulation we might be miles ahead. If I don't read and constantly update my safety and health knowledge, and my equipment, I get sloppy.

I have to confess, I drive and talk on the phone in my car. Sometimes I use a speaker phone, but not usually. My brother, a retired airline pilot has much better habits. He refuses to answer a call. I do think the biggest distraction in a vehicle is the other passengers! It's true on every bus I have ever driven, especially a school bus.



About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.