As April approaches, it’s time for businesses managing fleets to take a moment and recognize the significance of Distracted Driving Awareness Month. But let’s not just mark our calendars and move on – it’s crucial to understand that promoting road safety isn’t a one-time effort. It’s a commitment that requires constant attention and proactive steps throughout the year. As distractions like mobile devices and connected vehicles become increasingly prevalent, companies have a bigger role than ever in ensuring road safety. In this blog, we explore some startling safety numbers tied to distracted driving. We also introduce practical strategies to help your company gear up for Distracted Driving Awareness Month in 2024 and beyond.

What Are the Four Types of Distractions While Driving?

The four categories of driving distractions include:

  • Visual – anything that takes your eyes away from the road
  • Auditory – noises that affect your ability to hear and divert your attention
  • Manual – removing your hand(s) from the wheel to accomplish other tasks
  • Cognitive – something that disrupts your mental focus while driving

Let’s dive into each of these categories a little more.

Visual Distractions

Visual distractions divert your eyes from the road, increasing the risk of crashes. Common visual distractions include billboards, street signs, scenery and even your passengers. However, the most prevalent visual distraction in today’s digital age is undoubtedly mobile devices. The temptation to glance at a text message or check social media notifications can be overwhelming, but it only takes a split second for a catastrophic incident to occur. That’s why it’s imperative to educate employees on the dangers of using mobile devices while driving and train them to keep their eyes on the road at all times.

Auditory Distractions

Auditory distractions involve any sounds that divert your attention from driving. While some auditory stimuli like car horns or emergency sirens can be important for situational awareness, others can be distracting, such as loud music or talking on the phone. Studies have shown that listening to loud music can impair cognitive function and reaction times, making it harder to focus on driving tasks. Similarly, engaging in phone conversations, whether through hands-free devices or not, can divert cognitive resources away from driving and increase the risk of crashes. Encouraging employees to minimize auditory distractions and keep the volume levels moderate can help maintain their focus on the road.

Manual Distractions

Manual distractions involve tasks that require taking your hands off the steering wheel, such as eating, drinking, adjusting the radio or reaching for objects in the vehicle. Among manual distractions, texting while driving poses one of the most significant risks. Sending or reading a text message takes your hands, eyes and cognitive focus away from driving simultaneously, making it an extremely dangerous activity. Employers should emphasize the importance of keeping both hands on the wheel and completing any non-driving tasks before or after the journey to minimize the risk of crashes.

Cognitive Distractions

Cognitive distractions occur when your mind is not fully focused on driving, impairing decision-making and reaction times. Common cognitive distractions include daydreaming, engaging in deep conversations or experiencing strong emotions like anger or stress. Fatigue is another prevalent cognitive distraction that can significantly impair driving performance. Encouraging employees to practice mindfulness techniques, take regular breaks during long journeys and prioritize adequate rest can help mitigate the impact of cognitive distractions on driving safety.

By understanding the four types of driving distractions and implementing targeted interventions to address each category, businesses can play a proactive role in promoting road safety year-round.

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How Common Is Distracted Driving?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), from 2012 to 2021, more than 32,000 people lost their lives in crashes involving distracted drivers. In 2021 alone, 8% of the total fatal crashes of that year were caused by distracted driving. It also factored into 14% of injury crashes and 13% of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes.

Distracted driving’s impact extends beyond motor vehicle occupants, affecting those on foot or bicycle as well. In 2020, distracted driving incidents claimed the lives of 587 pedestrians and cyclists. These non-occupants tragically lost their lives due to drivers’ lack of attention or their own risky decisions, leading to collisions.

When it comes to the most common distractions, the use of mobile devices is a continuous cause for concern. Numerous states now prohibit the use of handheld cell phones while driving. Additionally, many of these states enforce “primary enforcement” of such offenses, enabling police officers to conduct traffic stops solely based on observing the use of a handheld device. But even with the implementation of these laws, an estimated 373,066 passenger vehicle drivers were still observed holding cell phones to their ears during typical daylight hours throughout 2021.

Lastly, since 2007, drivers aged 16 to 24 consistently show higher rates of distraction from electronic devices than other age groups. This stresses the necessity for companies to enroll younger-generation employee drivers in ongoing fleet training programs focused on distracted driving. We’ll cover more on that later.

What Are the Economic Costs Associated with Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving poses significant economic consequences. In 2019, the total economic cost of motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States reached a staggering $340 billion. $98 billion of this amount was attributed to crashes involving distracted driving. These economic costs encompass various factors, including lost productivity, expenses incurred in the workplace, legal and medical fees, emergency services, insurance administration, congestion impacts and property damage.

It’s important to note that the figures above only represent tangible losses. They are unable to capture the intangible toll on quality of life resulting from injuries sustained in crashes. When considering quality-of-life valuations, the societal harm inflicted by motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States in 2019 surged to an estimated $1.37 trillion, with distracted-driving incidents contributing $395 billion to this total. These figures underscore the urgent need for effective measures to address distracted driving and mitigate its substantial economic impacts.

How To Combat Distracted Driving Across Your Fleet

While you can’t control the actions of drivers outside of your fleet, you can ensure your company drivers have the support and knowledge needed to make the right decisions behind the wheel. Below, we explore a handful of strategies your team can implement to proactively mitigate distracted driving risk across your company’s driver population.

Set Clear Driving Expectations in Your Safety Policy

It’s integral to establish a driving safety policy that sets the standard for what safety looks like at your company. From this, your drivers must have a clear understanding of your company’s rules surrounding distracted driving behavior. It’s important to create an organization-wide definition with examples within your policy to ensure that there is no confusion amongst your drivers. Actions to be taken (such as training and intervention) are also appropriate to explicitly express within this policy.

Need to establish a stronger safety foundation for your drivers? We can help you implement a thorough driver safety policy.

Stay On Top of Distracted Driving Behaviors and Violations

How are you alerted about the distracted driving violations your employees receive? Are you able to track your team’s distracted driving behaviors from trip to trip? Every mile that an individual drives without intervention puts your company and those on the road at greater risk. To implement a timely, proactive intervention strategy, you need to be alerted of distracted driving behaviors and violations immediately after they happen.

Tools that monitor updates to drivers’ Motor Vehicle Records (MVRs) and simplify data from telematics devices can help your company establish the complete picture of your drivers’ risk, so you can intervene before a crash occurs.

Assign Fleet Driver Training

Knowing about violations and poor driving behaviors isn’t the same as fixing them. You need a fast, simple and effective strategy in place to improve driver behavior. The shortest distance between knowing and fixing is assigning relevant fleet driver training. There are two different types of training strategies you should consider implementing:

  • Remedial training helps you take immediate action after a reported violation or risky trip
  • Frequent training proactively prevents future violations, the development of poor driving habits and costly crashes

Providing comprehensive distracted driver training equips your team with the knowledge and skills needed to recognize and manage distractions effectively. Moreover, also incorporating defensive driver training into fleet programs plays a crucial role in fostering heightened awareness and preparedness among drivers. By instilling defensive driving techniques, such as anticipating potential hazards and maintaining safe following distances, fleet drivers can protect themselves and their vehicles from the erratic behaviors of other distracted drivers sharing the road.

Get Our Helpful Guide for Distracted Driving Awareness Month

Ready to take your fleet safety efforts to the next level? Download our free guide, “Distracted Driving: 5 Strategies for Refocusing Your Drivers on the Road,” to learn how to create an effective strategy for preventing distracted driving across your team. distracted driving training guide

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