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Distracted Driving Awareness Month: The Risks of Distracted Driving For Commercial Fleets

By Verizon Connect April 21, 2021

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which is a great time to take a closer look at your fleet safety and ensure that your commercial motor vehicle drivers are protected while helping to keep others on the road safe. Distracted driving is a significant risk for drivers across the country—in fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 1,000 injuries a day occur that involve a distracted driver.1 And approximately eight people in the U.S. are killed every day in distracted driving crashes,3 resulting in 3,142 deaths in 2019, which is a 10% increase from 2018. 4

For commercial fleets, eliminating distracted driving is a critical goal toward keeping drivers and others on the road safe while also protecting their company's reputation and bottom line. According to research from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), the cost per non-fatal injury crash is $195,258, and the average cost of a fatal crash is $3,604,518.5

To help you get a better handle on distracted driving in your organization, here's an overview of distracted driving, including ways you can better address it with your drivers.

The 3 main types of distractions while driving

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “distracted driving” is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from the road. There are three main types of distracted driving:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of the task of driving3

Texting while driving is the most worrisome activity, as it spans all three types of driving distraction. According to the NHTSA, sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At fifty-five miles per hour, this is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

How to address distracted driving

Just like there are three main types of distracted driving, there are three ways of helping to address distracted driving with your fleet drivers. Let’s refer to them as the three Ts: talk, train and track.

 1. Talk: Keep staff lines of communication open. 

  • Explain why safe driving is important to both the driver and the company
  • Highlight the dangers of distracted driving
  • Underscore the human and monetary costs associated with accidents

2. Train: Train drivers before they drive.

  • Emphasize your safety culture and underscore what you consider unacceptable driving practices
  • Offer a combination of both behind-the-wheel training and online training
  • Refresh training on an ongoing basis to address new risks and keep driving safety top-of-mind

3. Track: Use technology to track data points that help combat distracted driving.

  • Gather visual evidence of driver behaviors
  • Make sure you have full visibility into driver status and road conditions
  • Carefully document accident circumstances

Once drivers realize that monitoring can work to their benefit and helps promote safety for their own wellbeing, they tend to hop on board quickly. Talking about these safety topics helps them become a part of company culture, and the natural next step, training, helps reinforce the importance of eliminating distracted driving behaviors.

Tracking supports all of the above. By using technology to gather visual information about what’s happening on the road and in the cab, fleet managers can gather and utilize important evidence to support safe operations.

Real-life story from a fleet manager

Wolf Line Construction installs fiber optics for the power industry in rural and urban facilities across the U.S. Their territory spans many states, including Colorado, South Carolina, Nebraska, North Carolina and Michigan. They have a fleet of sixty-one on-the-road vehicles that includes bucket trucks, pickups and SUVs, with 70 dedicated drivers. To get a better handle on risky driving, the company first installed GPS trackers, followed by front-facing and driver-facing cameras.

Before the dashcams and GPS units, we only had a cell phone policy and driving policy. Now, after the GPS trackers and dashcams were installed, a video monitor policy was rolled out. This touches base on the GPS unit, as well as the driver-facing and road-facing cameras, bringing in what the dashcam could be used for such as prioritizing safety, coaching on the harsh driving events, coaching on severity of the harsh driving events, looking for seatbelts, and the event of an accident. Part of the policy covers tampering or covering up either camera, as well. Everyone has to sign off on that if you're going to drive one of the company vehicles.

- Dante Allen, Fleet Manager for Wolf Line Construction

Prior to implementing fleet tracking and dashcam technology, there was no way for the company to monitor driver actions or road conditions. They had to put blind faith in drivers to stay alert behind the wheel. If an accident occurred, the company had to do its own investigation to figure out what happened, with little to no data. Watch the complete conversation with Wolf Line Construction.

Wolf Line first implemented GPS fleet tracking and set it up so that fleet managers received alerts if hard braking, hard acceleration, or an accident occurred. But the company also wanted visual proof to back up this data—so they took the next step and implemented in-cab video cameras. The same safety alerts now arrive with video footage attached showing both front-facing and driver-facing views. This allows managers to see what behaviors were taking place for a given incident and whether distracted driving played a role. If it did, they can use the video to help train drivers to improve driving protocols.

How you can use technology to help curb distracted driving

To combat distracted driving, these four technologies can play an important role:

  • Fleet tracking: builds a foundation of safety data around driver behavior using not just GPS plot points, but a host of vehicle information from a data analytics perspective
  • Driver-facing dashcams: show the full context around how the driver is operating the vehicle and what behaviors are occurring while driving
  • Road-facing dashcams: show the full context around what the driver sees and what he’s coming up against on the road
  • AI-powered data: enables smart solutions that can alert you about events that require your immediate attention

In-cab video is particularly useful in getting a holistic picture of driving events. It can provide a dual view of the driver and the road if both types of cameras are installed. Video evidence can also be used to determine if disciplinary action is needed in the event of a serious driver infraction or can aid in accident investigations and in determinations of liability.

To learn more about how distracted driving impacts commercial fleets, view our indepth webinar.

 1 https://www.government-fleet.com/320993/10-ways-to-minimize-distracted-driving


3 https://www.cdc.gov/transportationsafety/distracted_driving/index.html

4 https://www.nhtsa.gov/distracted-driving/april-distracted-driving-awareness-month

5Source: Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration “Unit Costs of Medium and Heavy Truck Crashes”

Verizon Connect

Verizon Connect Staff represents a team of professionals passionate about everything telematics. Get to hear about the latest trends, product features and industry best practices from the desk of Verizon Connect Staff.

Tags: Safety, Data & Analytics, Training

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