In the US alone there are about 2.5 million accidents every year and 64 percent of those accidents are caused by distracted drivers. Forty-seven percent of drivers are comfortable either texting manually or using voice controls while driving according to a survey conducted by the National Safety Council (NSC). But in reality, texting is more dangerous than drunk driving.
Distracted driving is not always taken seriously. It can be ingrained in your work culture, especially if your fleet often interacts with dispatch centers or must constantly look up new information while on the road. It is a dangerous behavior that can also have major financial impacts on your fleet.
Distracted driving isn’t cheap
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), the total economic cost of distracted driving in 2010 was $242 billion.
In fact, it costs employers an average of $24,500 per crash and $150,000 per crash with injuries. A majority of these accidents are a result of distracted driving, and they happen more often than you may think. The NSC estimates that distracted driving causes 27 percent of crashes.
Preventing distracted driving reduces costs
Distracted driving is also connected to other poor driving behaviors like harsh acceleration, hard braking and speeding.
Driver behavior monitoring systems can identify poor driving habits including cell phone use. These monitoring systems can help reduce the number of accidents by 30 percent and improve fuel economy up to 10 percent.
Fleets that collect driver behavior data can potentially reduce insurance costs up to 15 percent depending on their provider. This may become even more prevalent with the rise of monitoring tools.
So, how can fleets discourage distracted driving to avoid these costs?
Many fleets have been asking the same question—and finding solutions.
The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) requires all employees to pull over to a safe, legal parking spot before using their phone in order to discourage distracted behavior. PG&E is no stranger to the realities of distracted driving. The company experienced 1,700 power outages in its service area due to vehicle-related incidents in 2016—costing an average of $10,000 per incident. Eighty-percent of these incidents are expected to have involved distracted driving.
Fleets with dispatch centers
When working with dispatch centers, fleet drivers are constantly updated with new information such as the best route to take, the location of a new appointment, or the updated location of a police suspect.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) recognizes this danger and has worked to counteract it by making their equipment “as heads-up as possible”. The OCSD moved the mobile dispatching computers from a lower location to the vehicle dashboard so it would be at officers’ eyelevel. They have also discouraged drivers from using their cell phones unless in a no-radio area or emergency situation.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department went a step further and created a department policy that prohibits officer laptop use while driving except in the event of an emergency. They encourage drivers to communicate solely using radio whenever possible.
The Fort Worth Police Department takes things even further and doesn’t leave it up to the officers to keep themselves accountable. Instead, the Department installed a solution that automatically prevents the use of laptops once the vehicle reaches a speed over 15 mph.
Fight fire with fire
Establishing distracted driving policies is a great initial step towards discouraging this behavior, but it is not enough. It’s important to keep drivers accountable for their behavior and aware that management is watching.
Time and time again we’ve seen that technology leads to major behind-the-wheel driver distractions. So, why not use technology itself to help avoid these distractions? The Fort Worth Police Department made efforts toward this with its solution controlling laptop use. Other solutions targeting multiple distractions include in-vehicle video cameras and driver behavior monitoring tools.
Driver behavior monitoring tools can measure and score drivers based on behavior like cell phone use, harsh braking, and speeding. Performance scores help identify and quantify fleet drivers’ problem areas and enable management to take action to change driver behavior.
In many fleet-based occupations, distracted driving has become the rule, not the exception. Whether it’s answering a company call or radio, reading an email, eating a meal to keep to your busy schedule or consulting the GPS—distracted driving is prevalent.
Although it may have become the norm, that doesn’t make it acceptable. Activities that lead to distracted driving may seem to increase productivity, but they actually increase accidents, associated costs and lost time.
The bottom line is that distracted driving is a serious, costly issue and must be addressed with proactive management. Educate your drivers, establish policies surrounding distracted driving, monitor drivers to keep them accountable, and act on the data to change their behavior. It could save your fleet millions and likely spare lives too.