Due to increased offenses and a rising number of serious injuries and deaths, French law enforcement bodies have increased the fines for watching video devices while operating a heavy truck from 135 Euros (about $175 US) to nearly $2000.
Law enforcement officials say the spread of cruise control systems over the years has encouraged over the road truckers to relax behind the wheel too much, oftentimes distracting themselves with videos, cooking food and even playing instruments. French police recently stopped a driver who had managed to set up and practice his drum kit while driving down the highway.
A total of 324 haulers were caught watching a DVD in France in 2010, the last year for which full figures are available. The signs are that the offense is becoming more frequent. Officers say they can detect the offense only at night, when the screen light is visible in the cab, and then only by posting themselves on a bridge above the motorway.
Nicolas Paulissen, spokesman for the French National Federation of Road Hauliers, said dashboard DVD players were increasingly common. “They give drivers something to do when they’re parked.”
But he insisted that only a small minority watched them on the road. “It’s certainly not general practice,” he added.
The issue is particularly sensitive in France, which has more trucks on its roads than any other European country, but there have also been cases in Britain.
In the Aude department in southern France, police stopped 58 drivers for watching a film in 2009, mainly on the A9 motorway to Spain. The figure was 102 in 2010 and 130 for the first 11 months of last year. Moreover, the true number of drivers watching a DVD is probably higher as only a small proportion are caught.
Officers say they can detect the offence only at night, when the screen light is visible in the cab, and then only by posting themselves on a bridge above the motorway.
What do you think truckers? Are the fines reasonable for the level of safety involved? Have you ever caught yourself getting distracted and being unsafe?