Texting & Driving:
The Growing Scourge Impacting Your Fleet
During Distracted Driving Awareness Month, it’s time to shine the spotlight on the worst distracted driving factor – texting and driving. Not only is it troubling because of the human and economic impacts, but it’s also one of the few dangerous driving habits that is increasing in the United States.
The ABCs of Distracted Driving
So, what exactly is considered distracted driving? The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines it as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.
According to the agency, distracted driving claimed the lives of 32,522 Americans and injured more than 400,000 in 2021.
Ever watched a football game on television? One of the game’s most exciting plays is returning a kickoff for a touchdown. It takes a world-class athlete approximately 10-13 seconds. If you’re driving 55 MPH and look away to read or send a text, you travel that distance in five seconds. Many things can get in your way in that short time.
Overall, phone use behind the wheel increases the risk of a crash by 165%. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distracted driving is responsible for nearly 60% of teen crashes. The National Safety Council reported that cellphone use accounted for 27% of all car accidents.
NHTSA ranks texting as the most alarming distraction. Why?
Someone texting and driving is distracted in three critical ways:
Taking your eyes off the road to look at your screen.
If one of your fleet drivers were drinking and driving, there would be massive repercussions for the company and the employee. Studies now show that texting and driving impact your reaction time the same as drinking four beers in an hour and then driving.
The American Automobile Association refers to this phenomenon as the hangover effect. It can take nearly half a minute for your eyes to recover and reorient to the road and for the mental distraction to end, even if you’re waiting until a traffic light to check your phone.
Texting and Driving is Getting Worse
Nearly all of the drivers (96%) surveyed by AAA understood that texting or emailing while driving is a serious or very serious threat to their safety. Unfortunately, knowing something is dangerous and wrong is different than doing something about it. The AAA study showed that 39% of drivers admitted that they had read a text or email while driving, and nearly 30% copped to typing one while driving. A 2022 study was even worse, with 70% of drivers admitting they used a mobile device while driving in the previous 90 days.
To begin with, it’s not just your drivers you have to worry about. Younger drivers that grew up living on their phones and electronic devices have carried those bad habits to the road, and—as noted above—70% of drivers admit to using a mobile device while behind the wheel. One or more distracted drivers may be one lane over from your vehicle.
Compared to passenger drivers, the trucking industry is far safer, but your drivers aren’t out on the road by themselves. You have to worry about the drivers with whom your team shares the road. Dan Murray, SVP of the American Transportation Research Institute, said last year that data shows that the other drivers—not commercial drivers—are responsible for more than 70% of crashes involving commercial vehicles and passenger cars.
Distracted Driving Poses Significant Risks for Fleets
No industry is more impacted by distracted driving than transportation, and public and private fleet managers must deal with the rising liability and safety risks it brings. According to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), crashes caused by distracted driving cost employers $18.8 billion in 2018.
If your fleet driver is seen by other drivers texting and driving, that can damage your company’s reputation and lead customers or potential customers to believe your company doesn’t pay attention to details or is unreliable. If your driver receives a ticket or fine, that can impact more than just your insurance rates.
Texting and driving impacts your fleet in other ways:
Driver injury and costs
An accident involving your driver could result in medical expenses and workers’ compensation claims.
Protecting Your Fleet
Technology plays a huge part in the distracted driver problem but is also the solution. For instance, GPS tracking collects pivotal data and provides real-time alerts of driver behaviors that could indicate distracted driving. Smart camera technology can monitor facial and eye movements to determine whether a driver is using a phone or other device or paying sufficient attention to the road. Better driver coaching can also eliminate bad habits and reduce texting and driving.
Overall, taking advantage of technology can change the way your drivers and business operate and make everyone on the road safer.