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Is Meditation the Key to Preventing Truck Accidents?

Posted on : August 15, 2018
by : Aurelio

Picture the scene: dim lighting, a slow inhale and exhale. A yoga mat. Legs crossed, posture straight. Another inhale. Fingers extended, open hands resting palm-up on knees. Eyes shut as the yogi exhales. Silence.


The yogi opens his eyes, puts on his baseball cap, climbs out of the cab of his truck, stretches and gets into the driver’s seat. With a rev of the engine, he pulls out of the rest stop and back onto the freeway for a long haul.


Not the yogi you first imagined, right? Maybe it should be.


Mediation is gaining in popularity in the trucking community as truck drivers use it to increase concentration and alertness during long hours driving. But is there any proof behind this speculation? Should 18-wheelers come outfitted with meditation spaces?


This is the latest attempt to make truck driving safer. And the industry needs it.


According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), in 2016—the last year for which they’ve published data—fatal crashes involving large trucks increased 2% (4,440 crashes). That number represents an increase of 29% since the metric’s low of 3,432 in 2009.


Top Causes of Truck Accidents


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted the Large Truck Crash Causation Study in 2007. The study’s authors examined over 120,000 large truck crashes (trucks over 10,000lbs) that caused injury of fatality and occurred over the course of two years in the early 2000’s.


The study took into account the complexity of truck accidents. It determined that, of the 50% of crashes in the study that involved a non-truck vehicle depended on a number of factors:
• Interruption of the traffic flow
• Unfamiliarity with roadway
• Inadequate surveillance
• Driving too fast for conditions
• Illegal maneuver
• Inattention
• Fatigue
• Illness
• False assumption of other road user’s actions
• Distraction by object or person inside the vehicle.

[Source: https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety/research-and-analysis/large-truck-crash-causation-study-analysis-brief)


The thread running through these causes—inattention, fatigue, distraction—is inability, momentary or otherwise, to think clearly. That’s where meditation comes in. Presence of mind is an important way to combat the problem of anxiety and fatigue. And perhaps even avoid a dangerous or deadly accident.


Curb the Dangers


Of course, there have long been theories about the best ways to curb the dangers of truck driving. And experienced drivers offer some tips

like taking it slow, planning your trip and strictly performing checks, even in your blind spot, every time you maneuver the vehicle.


Developers are constantly upgrading trucks’ technology for a smarter, safer drive. A report by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that, “equipping large trucks with advanced safety technologies has the potential to prevent up to 63,000 truck related crashes each year.” The technologies—lane departure warning systems; automatic emergency braking; air disc brakes; and video-based onboard safety monitoring systems—made a huge impact on lives saved.


But what if those innovations aren’t available? What can a truck driver do to make a difference? Fortunately, safety doesn’t only reside in the hands of technologists. Drivers can implement mindfulness practices that can greatly improve their road safety.


Where Meditation Fits In


Meditation has emerged as a legitimate option for truck drivers looking to combat fatigue, stay present and alert and remain calm in treacherous driving conditions.


As meditation coach Eden Hozwolski blogged about on the Huffington Post, mindfulness may just be a perfect—if surprising—fit for truck drivers. She encourages drivers to “be present”, actively aware of their surroundings. This awareness of their surroundings and alertness keeps them attentive—and safe.


The Hard Facts: Meditation is Made for Truckers


As an article in Psychology Today entitled “Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today” points out, the practice boosts everything from concentration to patience to multitasking.


Beats Back Stress


Meditation has proven benefits to help combat stress—a key concern for truck drivers. A 2014 study by researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that meditation programs reduce stress, anxiety and depression. These are important areas for long-haul truck drivers who spend hours fighting tense traffic conditions and long days of isolation.


Keeps the Mood (and Health) Up


Meditating has been proven to boost mood which, in turn, benefits the immune system. Drivers on the road for weeks often can’t afford to stop and jeopardize an on-time delivery.


Helps You Stay Sharp


Daydreaming or spaced-out truck drivers are dangerous truck drivers. Alertness is important. In study from University of Pennsylvania, participants who didn’t usually meditate practiced meditation for eight weeks. Researchers found that the patients who practiced mindful meditation saw improved attention.


Boosts Executive Function: Judgment, Prioritization, Prediction


Meditation also helps with decision-making. In a 2010 study, researchers from Wake Forest and University of North Carolina found that mindfulness training “significantly improved visuo-spatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning”. That means improved sense of oneself in your environment, short-term immediate memory and  “executive function,” a sprawling ability to judge, predict, plan, organize, prioritize and exercise judgment. It doesn’t get much more important than this—on the road, or in any environment.


The Bottom Line: It Works


Meditation, it seems, is made for long-distance truckers. The Mayo Clinic encourages meditation for focus, reducing negative emotions and increasing patience. Could there be anything better for hours of sitting in traffic?


The scientific and medical community is just now beginning to understand the emotional, cognitive, mental and physical benefits of meditation. But applying the practice to trucking is surely a smart move to prevent truck accidents.


If you are involved in an accident with a truck, it’s important to seek legal advice.