Distracted driving increases the risk of a crash or near-crash by 23.2 times and is responsible for an average of nine deaths per day and nearly half a million injuries each year in the United States.
When drivers operate company vehicles, it’s important that they pay full attention to the road and their surroundings. Even a minor accident can cause big financial setbacks for a small business, including the risk of insurance premiums increasing. The average car accident costs a business around $16,500. The cost increases to $500,000 or more if the crash results in a fatality.
As a business owner, incorporating distracted driving policies into your driver training is imperative. This blog will provide you with actionable tips to ensure your staff don’t drive while distracted.
What is distracted driving?
There are three types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distracted driving occurs when the driver’s eyes are focused on something other than the road. Manual distracted driving happens when the driver adjusts, holds, or reaches for something, and cognitive distracted driving is when the driver steers their attention to something other than driving.
Oftentimes, drivers will also try to multi-task while they’re behind the wheel, putting themselves, passengers, other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists at risk.
Ways to prevent distracted driving
- Eat beforehand
- Securely store loose gear and items
- Get everything setup before you go
- Start the navigation beforehand
- Send text messages or make phone calls before you go
1. Eat beforehand
Finding time to eat lunch on busy days can be tough. Your operators might be tempted to eat while driving between jobs to stay on schedule. During your driver onboarding, it is critical that you inform them that eating while driving is still considered distracted driving.
Drivers should avoid eating while driving at all costs. If they need to eat while between jobs, they should do so only if they have pulled over and parked in a safe place (e.g. a parking lot). They should also be encouraged to avoid messy foods in order to keep the vehicles clean.
What about drinking?
Drinking coffee, water, or any non-alcoholic beverage behind the wheel can be considered distracted driving. If a law enforcement officer determines that a driver was distracted behind the wheel while consuming a beverage, it can result in a ticket. Taking a sip of coffee or water from a beverage container that requires only one hand to maneuver is usually fine, but erring on the side of caution and consuming the beverage before turning on the engine is the safest approach.
2. Securely store loose gear and items
If you’ve ever hit the brakes and had something roll out from under the passenger seat, you’ll know that this can be incredibly distracting. Loose items have the tendency to move around in a vehicle if they are not securely stored, sometimes even falling from back seats.
Before your drivers hit the road, they should ensure all loose gear is securely stowed to avoid distractions while they’re operating a company vehicle. The trunk is an ideal space to securely store gear and paperwork. If the trunk is not an option, we recommend storing items in a large duffle or Tupperware container and placing them securely on the floor in the back of the vehicle.
3. Get everything setup before you go
When drivers first get into a fleet vehicle, they should take the time to make the necessary adjustments to suit their individual driving needs. This is especially important if your fleet drivers don’t use the same vehicle everyday.
Taking the time to make the following adjustments will help eliminate distracted driving among your fleet drivers:
Adjusting the driver’s seat to be comfortable, upright, and close enough to the steering wheel and brakes is something that should be done before the vehicle is in motion. Making these adjustments while driving is dangerous and takes the driver’s attention off the road.
The top of the driver’s seat headrests should be in line with the top of the driver’s ears. Since your fleet drivers are probably all different heights, the headrest will likely need to be adjusted between drivers. Doing so before the vehicle is in drive is the best way to ensure fleet driver safety.
Depending on the type of company vehicles you use, mirror adjustments might be done manually or by automated buttons. Adjusting mirrors while driving can distract a driver from the task at hand. Drivers should adjust mirrors as soon as they are done adjusting their seat.
Seat belts should be free of twists and tangles and at a comfortable shoulder height for the driver. Drivers should click their seat belts in before beginning to drive.
Adjusting the temperature might seem like a simple task but it still takes the driver’s eyes and attention off the road.
While music, podcasts, and talk radio are all excellent ways to make a drive feel shorter and more enjoyable, skipping to the next song or flipping through the channels contributes to distracted driving and should be avoided. Have your drivers make their audio selections well before they step on the gas.
4. Start the navigation beforehand
If your team of fleet drivers visit multiple homes or businesses each day, they are likely using a hands-free device such as a GPS unit or cell phone as their navigation system. Drivers should plug in the coordinates of their destination to these electronic devices to plan their route before departure. Operating them while driving may result in a ticket, or take the driver’s attention away from the road, resulting in a collision, injury, or even death.
5. Send text messages and make phone calls before you go
Cell phones are the easiest way for drivers to stay connected with your company’s dispatch during operating hours. It is critical that your drivers do not manipulate their phones while driving since 13% of all fatal crashes involve cell phone use. This means no text messaging, checking emails, making phone calls, etc.
Checking a text message takes the driver’s eyes off the road for an average of five seconds (4.6 seconds to be exact). After looking at a cell phone, it takes the brain 13 seconds to refocus. Even voice-to-text or voice notes can be counted towards distracted driving since it still requires the device to be in the driver’s hand to execute.
Drivers should send messages before they start driving and avoid checking their phone again until they have reached their destination and turned the vehicle off. A trick to help prevent drivers from texting or checking their phone while driving is to keep the phone in the glove box. That way it is still close enough in case they need it in an emergency. If the driver must check their phone or send a message, they should pull off the road to a safe location before doing so.
Talking on the phone while driving is still considered distracted driving as it takes the driver’s attention away from the road. If the driver must make phone calls while driving, the phone must be hands-free, voice-activated, and securely fixed—not held in the driver’s hand and not obstructing the driver’s view.
How do I know if my drivers are driving safely?
Training drivers on the risks of distracted driving and tips to avoid them is the first step in driver safety, but vehicle tracking is the second step. Install a GPS fleet tracking system to your company vehicles in order to truly know if your drivers are driving safely. This allows you to access full driver and vehicle safety data to effectively manage your fleet. Try our software for free and start preventing distracted driving within your company.