Drivers have more distractions than ever because of technology. Thankfully, a new class of anti-collision, telematics, and smartphone safety technology are helping fleets monitor and prevent poor driving behaviors.
Distracted driving is the primary cause of accidents today. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each day in the United States approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver1. This isn’t just a problem for individual drivers — it’s a concern for employers, too. In addition to the loss of valued employees, in 2013, work-related crashes cost employers an average of $65,000 per non-fatal injury and more than 10 times that —$671,000 — per death2.
To combat this issue, companies must have a strong fleet safety program in place with clear guidelines for preventing distracted driving. But that’s just the beginning. Having a policy alone isn’t enough, as people don’t always do what’s in their best interest. Fleets must find a way to make the safety policy effective and hold drivers accountable. Technology is the answer.
Distracted Driving Is A Danger To Everyone
Distracted driving comes in many forms, all of which threaten the safety of drivers and those around them. There are three main types of distraction:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: taking your mind off driving
Activities that fall within these categories include talking or texting on cellphones, looking up work orders, getting directions, eating, and adjusting vehicle controls, among others.
Distracted driving is a very real problem, as thousands die each year due to these behaviors: In 2017, distracted-driving related crashes accounted for 2,935 distraction-affected fatal crashes and 3,166 fatalities3.
Technology is exacerbating this problem, with cell-phone use topping the list of causes of distracted driving fatalities. In 2016, 14%4 of all fatal distraction-affected crashes involved a cell phone. This problem is even more prevalent for fleets, as mobile-device use is the cause of 25% of all commercial crashes.
Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction: eyes off the road, one hand on the wheel, mind on the text. When you send or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds. That is long enough to cover the length of a football field,5 while driving at 55 mph, with your eyes closed.
How To Keep Drivers Safe And Accountable
Cell-phone use poses a clear safety risk to employees. But asking them to put down their phones while driving only goes so far, even if you have a formal policy in place.
Even when drivers are aware of the risks to their jobs — and their personal safety — many don’t consider their own use a problem; it’s the “other guy” who has to worry. For instance, a National Safety Council survey found that while 67% of respondents felt they were at risk because another driver was distracted by technology, only 25% said their own technology distractions were putting others at risk6. People often believe they are better drivers than those around them. This “it’s not me” attitude prompts drivers to feel they are above the rules. So even if you have a fleet safety policy in place, it can be difficult to enforce.
How do you keep employees accountable? Technology.
While some technology can be a major distraction for drivers, other forms of it are actually making them better drivers, helping fleets to prevent crashes rather than simply reacting to them.
Technology that can help prevent drivers from getting in crashes when they are distracted includes:
- Blind spot monitoring and assist
- Lane departure warning and assist
- Forward-collision warning (FCW)
- Automatic emergency braking (AEB)
These systems are helpful for mitigating the results of distractions. For instance, a 2017 study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) Highway Loss Data Institute (HDLI) found that FCW alone reduced rear-end striking crash involvement rates by 27%. A low-speed AEB reduced rear-end striking crash involvement rates by 43%. And FCW paired with AEB reduced rear-end striking crash involvement rates by 50%7.
But while this technology can help mitigate some effects of distracted driving, these systems don’t actually remove the source of the distraction. True removal of dangerous distraction is accomplished with technology that smartly combines telematics and smart phone technology.
Telematics can record driver behaviors, like sudden braking, that indicate drivers are distracted. Many telematics devices can go a long way toward identifying risky driving and coaching to correct behavior, but they still aren’t able to physically prevent dangerous events. Some drivers may continue to perform risky activities, like using their cell phones while driving.
This is where telematics integrated software comes in. With cell phone use topping the list of distractions that cause crashes, stopping this behavior is one of the most effective places to start — especially as the “addiction” to phones grows more prevalent. Fortunately, fleets can use cell phone blocking apps and devices to stop drivers from using their phones while in motion. These blocking apps prevent drivers from making or accepting calls, texting or accessing the internet while the vehicle is in motion, and help drivers stay focused on driving instead.
For example, using something like ORIGOSafeDriver provides a telematics integrated software solution that keeps drivers accountable by removing the temptation to use their phones while driving. By pairing easy-to-plug-in hardware that syncs with a mobile app, once your driver’s vehicle goes into motion, it removes the manual and visual distractions. If desired, handsfree calls via Bluetooth can be allowed by the administrator.
ORIGOSafeDriver provides fleets with the following benefits:
- Proactive Cell Phone Safety & Real Time Coaching
- Driver Safety Reporting & Risk Management
- Limit Calls & Require Driver Compliance
- Prevent Theft, Unauthorized, & After Hours Use
While technology is crucial to hold drivers accountable and keep them safe, first and foremost fleet managers and company leaders need to embed safety into the culture with a strong safety policy. Technology is then the means by which drivers are held accountable to that policy. Fundamentally, having the technology that reflects your policy and working in tandem with it will help you keep drivers safe and costs related to crashes low.
- “Distracted Driving.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sept. 16, 2019. www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/index.html. Accessed March 29, 2020.
- “Crash Facts.” National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Sept. 30, 2019. www.cdc.gov/niosh/motorvehicle/resources/crashdata/ facts.html. Access March 29, 2020.
- “Facts + Statistics: Distracted driving.” Insurance Information Institute. 2020. www.iii.org/fact-statistic/facts-statistics-distracted-driving. Accessed March 29, 2020.
- “Distracted Driving 2016.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. April 2018. crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812517. Accessed March 29, 2020.
- “Distracted Driving.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2020. www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving. Accessed March 29, 2020.
- “Technology Can Reduce Cell Phone Distracted Driving.” National Safety Council. 2020. www.nsc.org/road-safety/safety-topics/distracted-driving/ technology-solutions. Accessed March 29, 2020.
- “Effectiveness of forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking systems in reducing front-to-rear crash rates.” Cicchino, Jessica B. February 2017. https://www.iihs.org/topics/bibliography/ref/2111. Accessed March 29, 2020.