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How Can Risk & Safety Professionals Reduce the Impact of Fleet Distracted Driving?

At 60 mph, it only takes two seconds for a vehicle to travel the length of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Losing focus, even if only for an instant, can be catastrophic. However, there’s a silver lining. It’s estimated that four out of every five crashes are caused by preventable distracted driving behavior. With proper interventions, managers have the power to reduce fleet distracted driving, keep their drivers safe, limit the impact on insurance premiums and protect their company’s reputation.

What’s Distracted Driving?

Before taking action, it’s important to learn which behaviors count as “distracted driving.” Distracted driving can be separated into four categories:

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

Watch our FREE webinar: “How Your Company Can Combat Distracted Driving”

Common Causes of Driver Distraction

A few causes of distracted driving include:

Cell Phones

It’s no surprise that cell phone usage — taking or making phone calls, reading or typing texts or using smartphone apps and features — is a leading cause of crashes.

Phones fall into all distraction types: visual, auditory, manual and cognitive.

The 2021 RAC Report on Motoring highlighted the use of mobile phones as a major concern among drivers. It also detailed that the use of handheld phones while driving has a big skew to younger drivers, with 43% of those under 25 saying they use a handheld phone while driving, compared to (a still concerning) average of 26% of all drivers.

The report also reveals that one in five under 25 admits to video calling while driving.

The current insight is that hands-free phone calls are no safer than holding a handset for a call, as the cognitive distraction outweighs the manual distraction factor.

Further, with smartphones doing more than just making calls, the distraction potential has grown. There is a striking correlation between US motor vehicle death rates and the 2008 introduction of the iPhone. After the iPhone and other smartphones hit the market, the motor death rates no longer declined — in some years, they actually increased.

Lost in Thought

Despite their infamy, cell phones aren’t actually the number-one cause of crashes. In fact, a recent Erie Insurance study revealed that up to 61% of crashes are the result of daydreaming drivers.

Phone use might be easier to prevent, but staying alert is equally as important.


If there’s something going on roadside, it’s hard not to take a peek. But for many drivers, before they realize what’s happening, they’ve rammed into the vehicle in front of them.

Looking outside of the vehicle, either directly or indirectly via the mirrors, is known as rubbernecking. The University of Virginia estimates that this behavior causes nearly 10% of distracted driving crashes.

Eating, Drinking or Smoking

That mid-trip pick-me-up might not be worth it. Research indicates that drivers are three times more likely to be in a crash while eating or drinking at the wheel.

Taking one’s hands off the wheel is both a manual and a cognitive distraction, and if something spills, the chance one may cause a collision multiplies.

Adjusting or Reaching

Adjusting something in the vehicle, like tuning the radio or entering an address into a GPS, is another common culprit of distracted driving crashes.

Touchscreens found in many modern vehicles have caused the levels of in-car distractions to spike. A Transport Research Laboratory report from early 2020 showed that interacting with touchscreen controls consumes driver focus for up to 15 seconds — at 60 miles per hour, that’s more than 400 yards.

Driving While Tired

Being tired while driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. Tired drivers have slower reaction times, diminished attention and decreased road awareness, all of which impact their ability to drive safely.

Police findings cited by BRAKE indicate that up to 20% of crashes are caused by driver fatigue. Their findings also suggest that one in eight drivers admit to falling asleep at the wheel.


The other people inside the vehicle are an obvious source of driver distraction. Statistics show that younger, less experienced drivers are most likely to fall victim to passenger distractions. To maintain focus, everyone in the vehicle — whether they’re behind the wheel or not — must do their part to keep chaos at a minimum.

How Fleet Managers Can Make an Impact

In a few short steps, fleet managers can make distracted driving prevention an integral part of their risk management programs.

Update Your Company Driving Policy

Arming your team with a comprehensive driver safety policy is your first step towards an improved safety culture, and setting firm expectations is essential. Be sure to provide clear guidance outlining typical driving distractions, their impact and the small tweaks drivers can make to minimize them.

Enforce and Encourage

A strong driver safety policy is useless to prevent fleet distracted driving unless the policy is continuously enforced and encouraged.

Leading by example – embodying safe driving behavior and urging their team to do the same – is a simple way for fleet managers to strengthen their safety culture. Additionally, these best practices should be a frequent topic of conversation in normal staff communications and performance reviews alike. If you champion better behaviors more often, they’ll become a habit more quickly.

Expand Fleet Driver Training and Awareness

As part of your comprehensive driver training program, be sure to include a section on the nature of distractions and how simple practices can prevent them. When adding distracted driving to your existing training process, be sure your company addresses all four types of distractions.

Implement Driver Monitoring

Continuously monitoring motor vehicle records (MVR) can help you spot poor driving behavior and intervene early. Today’s technology provides fleet managers with continuous alerts of distracted driving violations – many of which are known indicators of future crashes. When they receive an alert, fleet managers can spring into action immediately and provide targeted training that mitigates future risk.

Leverage Telematics

The latest telematics systems can also help monitor driver behavior and identify which distraction types are most common among your fleet. From phone usage and lane departures to monitoring driver drowsiness, telematics can capture it all.

While telematics is an impactful part of fleet safety culture, drivers often worry that they’re being spied on. Build trust by addressing this concern upfront, reiterating that telematics is an essential way to keep your team members safe.

Do Your Part to Eliminate Fleet Distracted Driving

Small changes can have major impacts. Click here to watch our webinar, How Your Company Can Prevent Distracted Driving, to learn how you can keep your drivers focused, safe and on-task.

Want to learn more about preventing fleet distracted driving? We recommend:

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