A Mixed Methods Examination of Distracted Driving in Commercial Truck Drivers
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Distracted driving, a hazard that is increasingly common in the United States (U.S.), creates a risk for occupational injury and death for truck drivers. The overall goal of this dissertation was to understand the burden of distraction-involved truck fatalities in the U.S. and gain insight into workplace and personal factors that would affect distracted driving in this occupational population. First, after describing the rates of truck crashes by state, I used a longitudinal analysis of fatality rates in crashes involving distracted truck drivers and whether or not state and federal distracted driving bans affected these rates. Second, I undertook a mixed methods study using surveys of drivers and interviews with experts on distracted driving and truck driving safety. Research findings are presented in three manuscripts: Effects of State on Fatalities Involving Distracted Truck Drivers; The Effects of Safety Climate on Distracted Driving in Commercial Truck Drivers; and Understanding Commercial Truck Drivers’ Decision-Making Process Concerning Distracted Driving. First, I examined the rates of distraction-involved truck fatalities in the U.S. over an 11-year period and found that while state texting and handheld cell phone use bans were not associated with decreases in fatality rates, fatality rates to truck drivers and all vehicle occupants had been decreasing since 2007. The second manuscript explored the relationship of organizational safety climate, using an established questionnaire and key informant interviews, and found that management commitment to safety and communications and procedures were important for keeping drivers safe from the hazard of distracted driving. The third manuscript explored how the constructs of the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) affected truck drivers’ decision-making concerning communication on the job. Key informants described how the different aspects of the TPB could influence drivers’ decision making; in regression analysis for both texting and dispatch device use, the TPB constructs of intentions, norms, and perceived behavioral control were correlated with distraction-involved near-crashes on the job. Results from this dissertation revealed that while distraction-involved truck crash rates are decreasing, there is wide variation between states. Furthermore, truck drivers’ supervisors play an important role in creating an organizational climate where drivers do not feel pressured to undertaking distracting tasks while driving. These results should impact organizational policies and enforcement of these policies to prevent distracted driving. States, worker representatives, industry groups, and academic researchers will influence future enactment of governmental and organizational policies concerning distracted driving in truck drivers.