Distracted driving refers to any activity that takes a driver’s attention off the road. It’s a serious issue in North America, with thousands of people injured or killed each year in crashes caused by distracted drivers.
Commercial fleet managers play a critical role in reducing the risks of distracted driving. By giving drivers access to high quality virtual, behind-the-wheel (BTW) and online driver safety training, fleets can greatly reduce the number of crashes involving their fleets. This commitment to risk management also reduces crash-related costs for transportation companies.
What Causes Distracted Driving?
The root causes of distracted driving vary depending on the driver and the situation. They typically fall into one of four categories.
Visual. This involves anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road. It includes texting, reading billboards, looking for long periods at dashboard instruments, and looking at something online with a smartphone.
Auditory. This includes loud music, noises from the engine or any sounds outside the vehicle that result in drivers losing their focus on driving.
Manual. This involves doing anything that takes your hands off the wheel. It includes picking up a phone, eating food, drinking coffee or smoking.
Cognitive. This includes anything that makes a driver’s mind wander away from the task of driving and delays reaction to anything that happens on the road. A frequent culprit is a lack of sleep that causes drivers to nod off for a few seconds. Another is daydreaming, something that most drivers admit to doing at one time or another.
The Impact of Distracted Driving
While many people are aware of the potential consequences of distracted driving, it remains an issue. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that 9 percent of all traffic fatalities occur in crashes caused by distracted driving. In 2019, distracted driving claimed 3,142 lives on the nation’s highways.
Another factor driving the need for driver safety training is the fact that there are more people on the road than ever. With a population that continues to grow, and more older drivers on the road than ever before, crashes have increased in recent years. In 2018 alone, there were 4,630 fatal crashes involving large trucks and buses, according to federal statistics. That’s the most since 2006.
How Fleets Can Prevent Distracted Driving
Fleets that strive to train drivers to avoid distractions and stay focused on driving can greatly reduce the number of crashes. Training gives drivers tools and techniques to perform better behind the wheel. It also gives them good driving standards to maintain and a way to hold themselves accountable.
The One Second Advantage approach from Driving Dynamics provides an example of how training can improve driver performance. Because Driving Dynamics has analyzed crash data for years, they long ago realized that just one second of extra time can lead to drivers avoiding 90 percent of crashes.
Eliminating distracted driving can provide that one extra second and more. Doing so involves getting rid of dangerous habits while driving. They include using the phone, texting, eating, drinking, smoking, rubbernecking at crashes and spending too long fiddling with radios or navigation systems.
Addressing distracted driving is just one part of driving training, but it’s an important one. It can help companies better manage risk. Most importantly, it can make roads safer, not just for commercial drivers, but for all drivers.