Distraction when driving a truck: Mobile phones behind the wheel are dangerous

In 2016, more people were killed in traffic accidents due to technical distractions than because of drunk driving. With the constant accessibility through the smartphone, the topic of distraction in traffic has become increasingly significant.

All road users are affected: not only car and truck drivers, but also pedestrians and cyclists can no longer sufficiently concentrate on their environment when they operate their mobile phone. In addition, not only technical devices are distracting. Even the most common things, such as eating and drinking, can lead to dangerous situations while driving.

Mobile phone behind the wheel as the main cause of an accident

The most common cause of truck accidents in this country is the non-compliance with the minimum distance. But more and more often this is related to the use of mobile phones behind the wheel. No wonder: Truck drivers are in the car for several consecutive hours a day. The long time on the tours is sometimes used to send messages or watch short videos. In a study, the testing company Dekra examined the distraction rate of truck drivers with an alarming result: One in three truck drivers deals with other things while driving. The smartphone leads the list, followed by the navigation device, laptop or tablet, but also non-technical activities such as eating, drinking or reading magazines are included. And the consequences are much more dramatic due to the high mass of a truck than in an accident only involving passenger cars.

Legislation and fines

Legislation regarding the use of mobile phones at the wheel is clear. The Road Traffic Act (StVO) says in § 23 para. 1a: “Individuals who lead a vehicle may not use a mobile or car phone, if the mobile phone or the handset of the car phone must be held in the hand. This does not apply when the vehicle is stationary and the engine is switched off in motor vehicles. “The truck must therefore stand with the engine switched off when the mobile phone is being operated. On the highway, however, the truck driver is forced to drive to a rest area, because even stopping on the hard shoulder is prohibited.

For the unlawful use of the smartphone while driving in Germany both truck and car drivers are charged only 80 euros plus the associated administrative costs and the traffic file in Flensburg is credited a point – and this despite the increased mortal danger in accidents with 40-ton trucks. In other countries fines are much stricter. In the Netherlands, for example, 230 euros are due if the police catch a truck driver using a mobile phone behind the wheel. In the UK, the fine for truckers is even around 1,000 euros.

Prevent mobile phone distraction in the future

On the one hand, since August 2018, there has been a demand at European level to increase the fine for illegal mobile phone use. On the other hand, an initiative has been launched within the EU to reduce the source of hazards in truck traffic by changing the technical conditions. The Dutch association Transport en Logistiek Nederland (TNL) is trying to oblige both truck and smartphone manufacturers to exclude certain uses while driving.

Technically, this is already partially possible. For example, Apple has recognized the danger of distractions behind the wheel and has introduced automatic enabling of the “do not disturb” function when connecting to Bluetooth devices in the vehicle to prevent push notifications. Other variants are also conceivable, such as the blocking of the mobile phone screen as soon as the truck is in motion. For this purpose, the attachment of a corresponding sensor in the truck is necessary.

Further information on the topic of „Distraction at the wheel (Ablenkung am Steuer)“ and other interesting content can be found on the free advice page www.bussgeldkatalog.org.


Barbara Brecht-Hadraschek

Since 2000 online editor and copywriter. For several years, she writes and proofreads texts of all kinds as a freelancer for TIS. For the new blog she works as an editor and writes technical papers in close collaboration with the TIS team.

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