Long-haul driving is one of the risks drivers voluntarily take and consider when getting into the trucking industry.
Driving from one end of the country to another might sound like an exciting idea for a family road trip, but for a truck driver transporting tons of perishables, materials, or liquids? One small mistake or accident can result in a disaster on the road and the economy.
And as the weather gets colder and the days shorter, long-haul driving becomes more hazardous than ever. With winter creeping in, truck drivers should take extra precautions on the road, as snow and frozen roads can hamper their journey.
However, winter conditions are just one of the many things a truck driver has to be mindful of while driving.
With the holiday season coming up, there is also an increased risk of distracted and impaired driving among motorists.
And while we’d like to trust that fellow motorists are also driving responsibly, it is better to refresh and remind ourselves of the different types of distracted and impaired driving that we should look out for as we head into colder and longer nights on the road.
Common Types of Distracted Driving
Next to speeding, distracted driving is one of the leading contributing causes of car accidents and crashes in Edmonton. According to Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act, whether or not your driving performance is affected, the law considers the following as distracted driving.
Using Hand-Held Cell Phones
With the advancement of technology, most, if not all, people heavily rely on their mobile devices and cell-phones.
It might seem harmless to check or send a text message or an email while in transit, but if you are speeding 100km/h on the highway and hauling tons of goods on your truck, you might want to reconsider checking that notification for the safety of other motorists and your own.
Operating Electronic Devices
If using a hand-held cell phone is a form of distracted driving, it goes without saying that using other electronic devices, such as:
- Video games
- Video entertainment displays
- Portable audio players
While driving is also considered distracted driving.
Inputting Information on GPS Units
These days people rely on their GPS unit more than the printed map, whether they use an app on their mobile device or their vehicle’s system.
Even though a GPS is a necessary tool to go from one place to another, the law considers inputting information on a GPS unit while driving a form of distracted driving.
Reading Printed Materials
Reading a map or any printed material while driving a vehicle is also a type of distracted driving.
Some people have adopted the habit of brushing or flossing teeth, clipping nails, shaving, putting on makeup, and even curling hair while driving.
While some may consider personal grooming in the car a time-saver, the law states personal grooming is a form of distracted driving.
Penalty for Distracted Driving
The penalty for distracted driving is a $300 fine and three (3) demerit points.
However, there are some activities that the law does not consider a type of distracted driving, such as:
- Calling emergency services with a hand-held mobile device
- Activating a mobile device and an earphone by voice or a single-touch
- Drinking non-alcoholic beverages and eating a snack
- Talking with passengers
- Listening to an audio player that was set up before driving
- Using a hand-held or two-way radio for emergencies or when required by an employer
- Using a display screen of GPS navigation, collision avoidance, passenger dispatch, vehicle information, logistical tracking system, and alcohol ignition interlock device
But even though doing these activities while driving will not charge you for distracted driving, it is highly encouraged that you keep your eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel the entire time.
Common Contributing Causes of Impaired Driving
With the change of weather and the upcoming festivities, we can expect cases and accidents caused by impaired driving to spike up.
The following are some of the common contributing causes of impaired driving:
Alcohol is one of the leading contributing causes of impaired driving.
According to 2016 statistics, alcohol-impaired driving injured 5,494 people and killed 368 people over five years in Alberta alone. And in 2019, statistics show that the rate of alcohol-impaired driving rose by 15% in Canada.
While Canada has a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit, it does not mean that a person’s driving performance will not be affected if they have a BAC of 0.08% and below.
For example, a person with a BAC of 0.02% can experience the following:
- Shift in mood
- Some loss of judgment
These can affect a person’s ability to pay attention to the road and react in a timely manner while driving.
According to studies, the higher the driver’s BAC range is, the higher the fatality risk increases. For example, a driver with a BAC:
- 0.02% to 0.05% will have a 3x higher fatality risk
- 0.05% to 0.08% will have a 6x higher fatality risk
- 0.08% to 0.10% will have an 11x higher fatality risk
Since the legalization of cannabis, 2019 statistics show that the rate of cannabis-impaired driving increased by 43% compared to the previous year.
It is illegal for a person to drive after inhaling or consuming cannabis because it is difficult to pinpoint when the effects of cannabis start. Just like alcohol, cannabis can impair a person’s:
- Reaction time
Additionally, a person who consumes alcohol and cannabis will have different effects and a higher fatality risk while driving.
Whether prescribed or bought over the counter, medical cannabis and other medical drugs can cause impaired-driving accidents.
Aside from cannabis, some types of drugs, such as:
- Sleep medicine
- Cough medicine
- Narcotic pain pills
Can affect a person’s:
- Reaction time
According to research, driver fatigue is behind 20% of fatal collisions in Canada. It also shows that being awake for 17 to 19 hours is the same as having 0.05 blood alcohol content. With this, we can say that when a tired person is behind the wheel, they share the same risks as a drunk driver behind the wheel.
Penalty for Impaired Driving
The penalty for impaired driving ranges from $300 to a $2,000 fine and immediate license suspension, depending on the offense and roadside sanction. A driver can also be criminally charged and placed behind bars, depending on the circumstances of the offense.
Winter Driving Tips and Preparation
When it comes to driving, there is not much you can do for fellow motorists on the road but to be responsible for your condition and vehicle. And with the expected winter conditions and surge of the holiday crowd, drivers should be extra cautious at this time of the year.
Here are some tips to help prevent distracted and impaired driving casualties from happening:
- Get the right amount of sleep the night before
- Plan your drive by setting up your GPS unit and audio player before driving out
- Put away your phone and other electronic devices
- If there is an emergency, stop at the nearest rest area
- Keep your eyes on the road and both hands on the wheel as much as possible
- Avoid engaging in heated conversations with passengers
- Assign a designated driver if you are expecting to get drunk or high
- Share the drive with passengers
- Pull-over in the nearest rest area if you catch yourself falling asleep
However, if you are an aspiring truck driver, you should know that you will bear more responsibilities than a non-commercial vehicle driver. To be a licensed truck driver, you must have the proper education and training before you head out on the road.
Edmonton’s Premier Commercial Truck Driving School
At Gennaro Transport Training, we have all the courses you need to jumpstart your trucking career. And if you are a seasoned truck driver, we also have refresher courses such as our Air Brake Refresher Course and Professional Driver Improvement Course (PDIC) that can equip you to drive in any season.
Contact us today to find out how you can start and further enrich your trucking career.