Truck driver texting while driving

When considering modern-day distracted driving, the focus tends to gravitate towards cell phone usage only. However, distracted driving really involves any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from driving. These activities include visual distractions that cause a driver’s eyes to leave the road, manual distractions that cause a driver’s hands to leave the wheel, and cognitive distractions that cause a driver to take their mind off of the act of driving.

“Not all distractions are tangible; it could be something purely cognitive,” says Kevin O’Sadnick, Senior Risk Control Manager for Safety National. “It’s important to review how your company’s guidelines could be unintentionally distracting your driver from focusing on the road.” Understanding how to prevent these distractions, how they occur and the effect they can have on your commercial fleet can make a difference in your insurance costs, and most importantly, the safety of your employees. Here are five facts you need to know to ensure your commitment to a safe driver program:

  1. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2019, roadway fatalities were the number one cause of workplace fatalities. And unfortunately, that trend has continued for almost a decade. Even more alarming, 2019 saw the most cases of transportation incidents since BLS started tracking this data series in 2011. While alcohol, speeding and distracted driving are the top three causes of non-commercial accidents, there is not enough data on the top causes of all commercial vehicle accidents. Uncertainty of causation is why it is increasingly critical for commercial fleets to use technology to understand their drivers’ patterns.
  2. People in the U.S. talk on their phones more than any other country in the world. We expect everyone to be easily accessible, and with most cell phones being an arms-length away from a driver, it is tempting not to pick up the phone while driving. No state has a complete ban on cell phone usage either, and every state differs in its cell phone usage laws. If your fleet has drivers moving between states, understanding how these laws vary could prevent future moving violations.
  3. Distracted driving accidents can ruin your company’s brand reputation. Nuclear verdicts occur when a company must pay over $10 million, and they are becoming increasingly more common. A medium-to-heavy truck with a fatality occurring has an average cost of $7.2 million. This sum alone could be financially catastrophic for many businesses, but any accident can impact a fleet. Aside from legal fees, auto insurance rates will increase, workers’ compensation costs will increase, and the company could be facing out-of-pocket expenses.
  4. The annual collision rate for commercial vehicles is 20%. Having a reliable cell phone use policy for a fleet is a great start, but enforcing it through methods like cell phone blocking technology can make a considerable difference. There is typically a much more significant reduction in the at-fault collisions for a fleet when policies are enforced.
  5. Technology can reduce a fleet’s at-fault collisions by 25-50% annually. There are multiple solutions, including cell phone-based apps designed to help drivers learn hands-free practices through a training program. These apps also enable fleet managers to gain new safety visibility with a program portal and reporting. This reporting allows them to view safe driver scores, receive daily exception reports for problem drivers, and manage fleet drivers.

Revisit your driver guidelines frequently and talk to your risk manager about how to enhance your driver safety program, as new hazards and exposures arise every day that were not considered previously. Educating your drivers regularly on the risks involved with distracted driving can ultimately prevent catastrophic accidents and costs to your organization.