About nine people die each day as a result of distracted driving. Another 1,000 injuries occur per day in accidents that reportedly involve a distracted driver, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). These injuries or deaths cost organizations a pretty penny. On average, a single-vehicle crash can cost employers about $16,500, noted by The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OHSA). And, if the accident results in injuries, that amount skyrockets to more than $74,000. In the worst-case scenario, the costs of a fatal crash can start at $500,000. These eye-popping stats illuminate the importance of implementing a top-notch driver distraction program in work truck fleets large and small. And, as mobile technology continues to proliferate, driver distractions grow as well. Let’s break down the numbers further: Distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives in 2016, and 391,000 individuals were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2015, according to NHTSA. 10% of fatal crashes, 15% of injury crashes, and 14% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2015 were reported as distraction-affected crashes, NHTSA reported. Distracted driving crashes are under-reported, and the National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that cell phone use alone accounts for 27% of vehicular crashes. Top Distracted Driving Behaviors Distracted driving behaviors include answering the phone or making a call, reading or sending text messages, surfing the internet, posting to social media, and even participating in a video chat — all while driving. A 2016 NSC survey of more than 3,400 adult drivers across the U.S. revealed that drivers engaged in distracting behaviors often or occasionally: 19% made or answered phone calls with handheld devices. 51% made or answered calls hands-free with headsets, speakerphones, and in-vehicle systems. 32% reviewed or sent text messages. 23% reviewed or sent an e-mail. 23% glanced at, read, or posted social media messages. 21% surfed the internet. 19% looked at, took, or posted photos or videos. 14% watched TV or a movie on the phone. 14% participated in a video chat. Plus, distracted drivers are more likely than all other drivers to have a near collision, fail to stop at an intersection, and exceed the speed limit, according to a recent SmartDrive Systems study. The costs of distracted driving accidents can permanently hurt an organization. Beyond increased insurance premiums, possible litigation expenses, Workers’ Comp claims, lower vehicle value, and lost productivity, companies experiencing vehicle accidents sometimes suffer from negative publicity, permanent damage to their corporate image, and a decrease in employee morale. In fact, when factoring in everything, the actual cost of an accident is three to five times higher than the direct costs. Minimize Distracted Driving What can fleets do to minimize distracted driving? We compiled a list of best practices from fleet management and safety companies that will help drivers eliminate unnecessary driver distractions. Don’t Multi-Task. Drivers should only do one thing while on the road: Drive! They should never multi-task while driving. This includes not texting, video chatting, and social media posting while driving. Don’t Eat/Drink While Driving. Eating or drinking while driving can be a big distraction. Therefore, drivers should eat before or after their trips. If necessary, they should pull off the road in a safe place to eat. Avoid Complicated Tasks. Using technology, such as voice-activated systems or handless devices, may seem safe. However, these systems still distract a driver’s attention away from the road. Never Use a Phone While Driving. If a driver must make a phone call, they should pull over to a safe place and make the call. Even using a hands-free phone while driving could result in an accident. Drivers can remain distracted for 27 seconds after making a call, even if they use a hands-free device, according to The American Automobile Association (AAA). Store Gear Properly. Drivers should store loose gear in the proper compartments so that they don’t roll around the truck. Reaching for loose items could be catastrophic. Make All Adjustments Before Hitting the Road. Drivers should set GPS, climate control, and sound systems, as well as adjust mirrors and seats, before setting out on the road. Get Organized. Driving with clutter all over a vehicle is a recipe for distraction. Drivers should organize paperwork and properly store electronic devices before heading out. Keep Eyes on the Road. Drivers should always keep their eyes on the road and avoid looking at things like cool-looking buildings or eye-catching billboards. It’s recommended that drivers move their eyes every two seconds and scan mirrors every five to eight seconds. Groom at Home. Drivers should never dress or groom while driving. They should do so at home prior to heading out on the road. Never Drive Drowsy. Drowsy driving is a factor in more than 100,000 crashes each year, according to NHTSA. And drowsy driving can hurt driving execution as much as or more so than alcohol, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Drowsy drivers should immediately pull off the road and find a safe place to rest. A Multi-Faceted Approach to Minimize Distracted Driving
Most fleet management and safety companies recommend a multi-faceted approach to minimize distracted driving as follows: Educate about distracted driving and implement policy; define penalties for non-compliance, and monitor driver behavior. Educate and implement. Almost 80% of adult drivers think they can easily manage to text while driving, according to a survey by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. It’s this type of mindset that fleet managers must change by educating drivers about distracted driving and implementing a strict distracted driving avoidance program. Showing drivers how one text or one phone call while driving can change lives forever goes a long way toward gaining driver buy-in on your distracted driving fleet policy. Define penalties for noncompliance. Once you’ve educated drivers on the facts and outlined and communicated a strict distracted driver avoidance program, let drivers know the penalties for not following established protocol. This will go a long way toward proper policy enforcement. Monitor driver behavior. Many fleets now use telematics, driver monitoring programs, and collision-avoidance programs to help minimize bad driving habits. For instance, hard braking may indicate distracted driving, which a monitoring program would detect. Fleets can now also take advantage of apps that help minimize distracted driving. These apps stop drivers from using their phones while driving. Remember to follow up on this three-pronged approach to minimizing distracted driving with ongoing driver training. A one-time driver-training session won’t do the trick.