Focus on Fleet Safety: Discourage Distracted Driving

By now, your drivers should know: Don’t text and drive. Texting is more dangerous than drunk driving. Put the phone away when you’re behind the wheel. But even if the “Don’t text while you’re driving” message has sunk in, it may not be enough to keep your drivers focused on the road. It seems we’re inventing new ways to distract ourselves almost daily. Here are some emerging driver distractions you need to address with your employees.

Drivers who take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds for any reason—not just texting—double their odds of a crash. Drivers should keep their eyes on the road and not on their cell phone, radio, climate controls, passengers, or the scenery.

Warn your drivers about these new driving-related distractions:

Driver “Selfies”

Yes, taking self-portraits with cell phone cameras is a trend, especially among younger drivers—and motorcycle riders and even pilots. (“Selfie” was actually the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2013. That’s how common this type of photography has become.) And they’re not necessarily snapping these shots while the vehicle is stopped. Worse, these aren’t always still photos—you can find 6-second Vine videos and 15-second Twitter videos of drivers operating their vehicles, too. There’s no hard data yet on how dangerous the practice may be, but do you really need it?

Web Surfing

Even the most antiquated flip phone can send text messages and take pictures, but the latest and greatest handheld phones—smartphones—offer an even broader range of dumb things to do while driving.

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Thanks to smartphones, Web surfing while driving is on the rise, according to an annual survey conducted by State Farm Insurance. This practice affects even older drivers who might be less prone to snap a selfie. Older drivers trying to get in on the latest trends may need reminding: The time to find out whether tickets are still available for that Black Sabbath reunion tour is before or after you get out of the car.

Voice-Controlled ‘Infotainment’ Systems

Automakers are increasingly making information and entertainment apps like Google, Siri, Facebook, and Pandora available to drivers using voice-activated technology.

Automakers claim the technology is seamless, intuitive, and safe, but some transportation experts, including former U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, disagree. A study published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety in 2013 found that this technology creates a level of driver impairment comparable to drunk driving. But more than half of all new cars are expected to have this technology by 2019.

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Discourage Distracted Driving

The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) believes that a successful distracted driving prevention strategy involves putting a consistent message in front of employees. In particular:

Tell workers to quit. Convincing drivers to put down devices while driving is key to ending distracted driving. Drivers simply cannot pay full attention to the road while using these devices or engaging in other distracting activities.

Use messages that work. The NHTSA has identified three messages it says are most likely to lead to action.

  • Deadly behavior. Thousands of people die and hundreds of thousands of injuries occur because people were not paying attention to the road. Whatever it is can wait. The chance of causing a crash that could ruin lives is just too great.
  • Young drivers are at great risk. Drivers under 20 years old are most at risk. Their lack of experience can contribute to critical misjudgments if they become distracted, yet they text more than other age groups.
  • Everyone has a role. Everyone has a stake in the problem and everyone is part of the solution. Drivers must be good role models for their peers, their children, and their communities and should insist that others they ride with do the same.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at the fourth common driver behavior that dramatically increases the risk of a crash: drowsy driving.