GPS: A Potential Safety Hazard for Drivers

GPS: A Potential Safety Hazard for Drivers

While GPS navigation systems may represent an upgrade over their predecessors — the map or the atlas — they can also be a distraction. 

Distracted driving ranked No. 7 on the American Transportation Research Institute’s list of top trucking industry issues for 2018. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,450 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 involving distracted drivers. Distracted driving was a factor in 14 percent of all police-reported traffic crashes in 2016.

Certainly, devices utilizing GPS weren't a part of every distracted driving incident, but they can contribute. Making sure your drivers' GPS units adhere to federal regulations and are properly placed in their cabs can help you and your drivers avoid potential safety hazards.

Changing Position

In the spirit of "safety first" the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has offered motor carriers expanded flexibility to mount navigation systems in their trucks' cabs. The idea is that drivers will be less likely to look away from the roadway to view or even fumble with a navigation device if it is properly mounted within view.

The new flexibility comes in the form of a temporary exemption from existing Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Under those regulations, drivers are normally prohibited from installing a GPS or similar devices lower than 6 inches from the top of the windshield or within the area swept by the windshield wipers.

The exemption states that GPS devices can now be mounted:

Up to 4 inches below the upper edge of the area cleaned by the windshield wipers, or

Up to 7 inches above the lower edge of the area cleaned by the wipers.

The exemption is in effect until August 22, 2023 and applies to all commercial motor vehicles (CMVs). 

In addition to being able to mount GPS devices in the just-described 4-7 inch range, certain cameras, collision warning systems, and transponders are also allowed in this range. Electronic logging devices, however, did not receive additional latitude. 

GPS Best Practices

Inputting information into a GPS while operating a CMV is not illegal according to federal safety regulations, but it can present a distraction to the driver. 

To help reduce the risk of a safety hazard, motor carriers should consider adopting the following best practices for drivers to follow when operating their GPS units.

Program the device before starting to drive, 

Re-program the GPS only when stopped, or

Enable the device's voice instructions instead of muting it to help avoid the need to look at the device's display.

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