According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately nine people die and more than 1,000 are injured each day because of distracted driving.
Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts attention away from driving and is categorized into three types:
- Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
- Manual: Taking one or both hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: Taking your mind off of driving
All are equally dangerous and potentially deadly. For example, taking your eyes off the road for just five seconds when traveling 55 mph is enough time for your vehicle to cover the length of a football field, which is basically driving 120 yards with your eyes closed.
Despite the known dangers, plenty of drivers – including commercial drivers – engage in distracted driving. A recent survey of commercial drivers by UFG Insurance found that 72 percent engage in distracted driving and 47 percent have read a text while operating their vehicle, which are pretty disturbing and scary numbers for employers.
Eyes on Road. Hands on Wheel. Mind on Driving.
The cost of distracted driving accidents can be significant and staggering for companies of any size. On top of the direct costs, such as vehicle repairs, medical bills, possible workers’ comp claims, and increased insurance premiums, there are also indirect costs that can come into play. They include lost productivity, lost business and customers, lower employee morale, and reputational damage. These expenses can balloon the direct cost of an accident anywhere from three to five times higher and hurt a company in ways from which they can never fully recover.
With business competition as intense as ever, budgets and profit margins tightening, and controlling costs and fleet safety top priorities for fleet managers, minimizing driver exposure to unnecessary driving distractions is vital for a company’s financial health and long-term viability.
To that end, let’s take a look at some best practices to help you minimize distracted driving and how to maximize their effectiveness.
Best Practices to Minimize Distractions
- Keep Eyes on the Road — This can’t be emphasized enough. It only takes a split second to cause an accident. A driver taking their eyes off the road for just two seconds can increase the risk of an accident up to 24 times. A good rule of thumb is for drivers to move their eyes every two seconds and scan mirrors every five to eight seconds.
- Don’t Multi-Task — On the road, the only task is to drive. This means no texting, posting on social media, video chatting, adjusting the stereo, eating, drinking, grooming, or using the phone. Even using a hands-free phone, handless device, or voice-activated system could result in an accident. If it’s necessary to make or take a call or engage in any task other than driving, drivers need to pull off the road in a safe place.
- Store Gear Properly — Loose gear and electronic devices should be secured and properly stored, so they don’t roll around the vehicle while it’s moving. Trying to retrieve a hard hat that rolled under a driver’s foot could prove disastrous. Additionally, clean up any clutter and organize paperwork to avoid distractions.
- Make Necessary Adjustments Before Getting on the Road — GPS and the stereo should be set before hitting the road as should mirror, seat, and climate control adjustments.
- Never Drive Drowsy — A sleepy driver is an impaired driver. According to the National Sleep Foundation, drowsiness can impair driving ability as much as, if not more than, alcohol. If a driver feels drowsy, he or she should immediately pull off the road and find a safe spot to take a breather.
Enforcing Best Practices
It’s one thing to establish best practices to reduce distracted driving, but if your drivers aren’t aware of your company’s policy on distracted driving and it isn’t strictly and regularly enforced, then it’s highly likely that established best practices will fall on deaf ears. You can help ensure this doesn’t happen and that your drivers and financial resources are protected by:
- Educating Drivers —A study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that 80 percent of adult drivers think they can easily manage texting while driving. Changing this thinking should be a top priority and can be accomplished through education. While statistics work, it’s more effective to show drivers videos or photographs of the devastation caused by a call or text while behind the wheel to get your point across.
- Developing and Enforcing a Distracted Driver Agreement — Have your drivers sign an agreement acknowledging their awareness of, and agreement with, your driver safety policy and your expectations when they are behind the wheel of a company vehicle. Outline in your agreement the consequences for noncompliance and strictly enforce them. Equally as important is rewarding drivers for good driving behaviors through an incentive program.
- Monitoring Driver Behavior — If you do not use telematics, driver monitoring programs or collision-avoidance programs, now is a good time to start. It’s also worth checking into apps that prevent drivers from using their phone while driving.
Until there are only autonomous vehicles on the roadways that take the driver completely out of the equation, distracted driving will always exist. And, even when that day arrives, there is always the chance for machine error causing an accident. So, eyes on the road. Hands on the wheel. Mind focused on driving.
Ready to learn more best practices for managing your fleet? Make sure to check our latest guide.