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CB Radios -- Are They A Distraction Or A Necessity?

Christine O'Kelly
Aug 14, 2008
The CB craze peaked with 13 million sales in 1977, which says the citizens band radio is back. CB's have had as many as two million sales annually in recent years and continue to be beloved by fans. Sure, they're many miles behind cell phones, but even cells won't put the hammer down (accelerate) forever.

In effect, the CB has flowed along behind the cell like a car cruising in an 18-wheelers' air displacement while lingering in its "back door" (the area behind a vehicle). It's been lagging, but it's also been enlivened, now that gab between drivers is a given. Authorities are asking if the increase use of CB's can increase the likelihood of a semi accident.

But with personal communication at an all-time high, people want options, and the trusty CB was bound to become some truckers' good buddy once again. For one thing, it's as useful as mud flaps. Though geared only to short distances, the two-way radio allows drivers to warn others of traffic hazards, semi accidents, and weather conditions, to seek nearby help in emergencies or to pass the time while keeping awake.

What About Truck Driver Safety?

But what about what's really important: driving safely while talking? Could talking on a CB increase the chances of a semi accident? It's been established that cell phone usage is one of many distractions while driving that contributes to accidents. What about CBs? Are they as distracting? And are they easier or harder to operate?

Distraction may depend on talk topics. Car drivers on cells often converse with persons many miles away who have no relation to their primary task: safely driving a vehicle. When they weave into another lane, they may be lost in thought.

By contrast, truck drivers on CBs often converse with other truckers nearby -- perhaps even within sight -- while sharing tips on highway variables. Such drivers are focused on the road in two ways: while looking ahead, and while talking about it. Of course, that doesn't mean truckers on CB's don't engage in distracting, non road-related jawing, too, which could lead to their own semi accident.

Ease Of Use

As for operational distraction, a CB radio can be as easy to use as a cell phone. A phone has virtually unlimited numbers to call and options such as texting. A CB radio has 40 channels, and one -- Channel 19 -- is preferred for vehicles within range. (Even with a large CB antenna, the range may not be more than four miles.)

Using a CB once required a handheld microphone, but today, headsets enable users to speak with hands free. Cell phones also can come with headsets, so the advantage is shared. This feature alone will help to reduce semi accidents.

Thus, while truckers on CBs aren't inherently safer than drivers on cells, they can be. So don't write off the old CB radio just yet. It's more likely to put the hammer down than to pull the plug.
About the Author
Christine O'Kelly is an author for 18-Wheeler Accident.org , an organization of legal representatives specializing in helping clients that have been involved in a semi accident .
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