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Questioning the licensure of partially-blind truck drivers

We frequently write about the hazards of distracted, drunk, drowsy and aggressive driving. Although each of these hazards is distinct, they all share a common thread. In each scenario, motorists who operate their vehicles while impaired, distracted, drowsy or emotionally agitated risk a failure to accurately perceive the road around them. Numerous studies confirm that detracting from the task of driving in any way places motorists at an increased risk for being involved in an accident.

It is therefore disconcerting that the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Administration continues to grant licensure to commercial truck drivers who are blind in one eye. In general, federal regulations prohibit individuals with poor eyesight from being granted commercial trucking licenses. However, the FMCSA has granted hundreds of exceptions for truck drivers who are partially blind.

The number of injurious and fatal truck accidents that occur on American roads on an annual basis is staggering. Many of these accidents are caused by preventable factors. Among these preventable factors are behaviors and conditions, like impairment or distraction, which cause motorists and truck drivers to pay less than full attention to the task of driving. Unfortunately, no matter how conscious you are as a driver, having sight in only a single eye detracts from the task of safe driving.

While it may make sense to allow some motorists to drive light vehicles despite certain eye conditions, commercial truck drivers operate massive vehicles with significantly destructive potential. In addition, these drivers generally have larger blind spots than motorists do and operate without rear-view mirrors. Reasonable accommodations for disabled workers are important. But accommodating partially blind truck drivers in ways that allow them to keep driving massive vehicles seems like an exceptionally poor safety decision.

Source: The Hill, “Truck licenses for the partially blind concern safety advocates,” Tim Devaney, Oct. 5, 2014

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