How Fleets Can Prevent Distracted Driving
It’s no secret that Americans are distracted. Between all of the electronic devices, notifications, and people vying for our time, it can be difficult to disconnect and focus on the task at hand, especially on the road. But when we’re driving, distractions can be dangerous, even lethal.
That’s why fleets must do what they can to reduce distracted driving. In 2018, over 2,800 people were killed, and an estimated 400,000 people were injured in accidents involving a distracted driver, and 20% of those killed weren’t even driving – they were pedestrians.
Several states have put in laws banning using a mobile device while driving, and vehicle manufacturers have added hands-free features to keep our eyes on the road, but still, the problem persists.
The 4 types of distracted driving
There are four primary types of distracted driving you need to be aware of:
- Manual: Anything that causes you as the driver to take your hands off of the wheel.
- Visual: When you see something that pulls your eyes away from the road.
- Cognitive: When your mind drifts off to somewhere or something that isn’t the road in front of you
- Auditory: When a noise, whether it’s coming from inside your truck like the music or a passenger or outside your vehicle like the horn of another car, grabs your attention from the road.
What are some examples of each kind of distracted driving?
Most people can come up with some of the more traditional forms of distracted driving. Texting while behind the wheel or using your phone in any capacity. Losing focus because you’re too concerned trying to adjust the heat or air in your car. Eating or drinking.
But there are other examples of distracted driving, and they’re subtle enough that you might not even know them. Looking at your GPS could be considered distracted driving, even if it’s helping you get to your destination. Adjusting any of the nobs or settings on your vehicle’s center console can also take your eyes off of the road. Even engaging in conversation with the person next to you can contribute to some levels of distraction.
This is Your Brain on Distracted Driving
Even a momentary glance can seriously affect our ability to focus on driving. A University of Utah study went further, saying that talking and texting on the phone was equivalent to driving with a 0.08% blood alcohol level.
Distraction divides our attention in a way that prevents us from giving any single task its due focus. At highway speeds, a vehicle can travel the length of a football field in only five seconds, about the amount of time it takes to view a text message and respond. A split-second distraction can have huge and costly ramifications unless fleets take a proactive stance to ensure their employees are doing their part to remain responsible behind the wheel.
Set a Fleet Distracted Driving Policy
For fleet managers, the first step is to set a formal distracted driving policy. This policy needs to set the boundaries for when company drivers can use mobile devices, eat food, or smoke cigarettes, the most common types of distractions in a vehicle.
The policy should also apply to any employees who drive on company time, not just delivery drivers but salespeople and even while running an errand during business hours. It seems like a common-sense step, but the Travelers insurance company found that only 27% of businesses reported having such a policy in place.
Once that policy is set, it is just as essential to communicate the policy to drivers regularly. Emphasize its importance in bulletins or company emails and have drivers review the policy and sign that they understand it.
Lastly, as with any safety policy, management must adhere to the rules as well. Setting a bad example by ignoring the policy will only communicate to drivers that the rule isn’t that serious.
Consider Installing Dash Cams in Vehicles
Dashcams are a valuable tool for fleet managers looking to improve the driving habits of their employees. With a view inside the cab, fleet managers can see which drivers are refraining from distractions and which ones are frequent violators.
Video telematics systems, like the VidFleet dashcam system offered by GPS Trackit, can record and upload a video of close calls and accidents for later viewing. Managers can use the video to see if distractions played any role in the incident and show other drivers as a teaching tool. The cameras can also act as a deterrent for distraction, a visible reminder of the policy set by fleet managers.
Hands-Free is Not Distraction Free
As a result of restrictive laws and improvements to technology, many of the functions of our phones have been made hands-free. Most new vehicles can route certain functionality through voice command or via a screen in the dash.
But while hands-free functionality can help us keep our eyes on the road, it turns out that our brains remain distracted. Researchers from the University of Sussex found that drivers were less aware of road hazards while engaged in conversation, including risks right in front of them. The National Safety Council estimated that talking on the phone could reduce our ability to see hazards by up to 50%.
A conversation while driving causes visual tunneling, where drivers narrow their focus to an area directly in front of them and ignore much of their peripheral vision. Interestingly, having a conversation with a passenger was less distracting because both people could stop talking when the driver needed to focus by using visual cues, something that someone on the phone would be unable to do.
Think Ahead and Prepare
Many of the things that can become distractions on the road can be taken care of before a journey to ensure as much safety for you, your passengers, and everyone else on the road as possible.
Setting climate controls, radios stations, and inputting a destination into the GPS can and should be accomplished before the driver ever puts the vehicle in drive. The same goes for phone calls and eating. It may not always be feasible in time-sensitive work conditions, but if you have to eat or make a call, it is a good idea to pull over and do it, rather than risk distraction.
Fleets can’t prevent every possible distraction, but a combination of intelligent policies, technology, active coaching, and common sense can go a long way toward minimizing the problem and increasing safety.
If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.
Think talking on your hands-free phone is safe? Think again, say researchers: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160608100130.htm
Dangers of Hands-Free Driving: www.zurichna.com/knowledge/articles/2020/10/the-illusion-of-safety-distracted-driving-and-hands-free-device-use
Drivers on Cell Phones Are as Bad as Drunks: archive.unews.utah.edu/news_releases/drivers-on-cell-phones-are-as-bad-as-drunks/
Safeguard Your Business with a Distracted Driving Policy: www.travelers.com/resources/business-topics/transportation/driver-fleet-safety/is-your-distracted-driving-policy-working
Learn The Facts About Distracted Driving: www.enddd.org/the-facts-about-distracted-driving/
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