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How to Prevent Distracted Driving


If you put employees behind the wheel, their most important job is to be defensive drivers who prevent accidents. This makes you a more efficient operation with lower costs. However, it’s impossible for them to prevent accidents if they’re distracted behind the wheel. 

You need ways to prevent distracted driving so you can protect your fleet, reduce your accidents, and lower your cost of loss.

What Is Distracted Driving?

We all have an image of distracted driving in our head: texting or talking on the phone, looking for something in your car, etc. But the reality is, distracted driving can encompass many activities that we consider harmless.

Distracted driving is defined as any activity that pulls your focus away from the task of driving. Distracted driving includes:

  • Texting and driving
  • Talking on the phone (hands-free or otherwise)
  • Daydreaming
  • Talking to passengers
  • Eating or drinking
  • Looking at something on the side of the road
  • Adjusting the A/C or radio
  • Programming a GPS
  • And much more

All of these activities greatly increase the risk of an accident.

How often should you do safety training?

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is the most dangerous thing your drivers could do. Here are some statistics to back up that claim:

  • In 2019, over 3,000 people died due to distracted driving in the U.S.
  • Distracted driving is under-reported and the NSC estimates that cell phone use alone accounted for 27% of crashes in 2015
  • 1 in every 5 people killed in a distracted driving collision are not in a vehicle - they are pedestrians, cyclists, or otherwise outside of their vehicles
  • It’s estimated that texting and driving is six times more like to cause an accident than drunk driving

It can be difficult to really understand how these statistics impact us. Nameless statistics are often not as alarming as they should be. So, let’s frame it this way: imagine if a fatal distracted driving collision was caused by one of your employees. How would that impact your organization? How would that impact you personally?

Distracted driving is a major obstruction to creating a safe company, but you don’t have to accept it as a reality of running a fleet. You can work to prevent distracted driving with your employees.

So, we’ve established that distracted driving frequently causes accidents. But why, specifically, is distracted driving so dangerous? It increases risk in two big ways:

  • Increased reaction and response time
  • Inattention blindness

Increased Reaction & Response Time

This one is easy to understand. When we are distracted, we are less likely to see and respond to risks in our driving environment. Thus, we have an increased reaction and response time.

When you or your drivers are distracted, you might miss:

  • A traffic light changing
  • A car stopping suddenly in front of you
  • A pedestrian crossing the street

We don’t see the risk right away, so we don’t react/respond as quickly as we normally would. We fail to stop in time for a risk right in front of us.

This can, and often does, lead to tragedy.

Inattention Blindness

The second risk from distracted driving is a bit more nuanced. When we’re distracted, we see fewer things in our driving environment even if we’re looking right at them. This is called inattention blindness.

Studies show that distracted drivers will, on average, only see and recognize 50% of the cars on the road with them. They don’t register the other cars because the driver’s mind is focused on something else.

This is the equivalent of driving with ten cars on the road but five of them are invisible.

Inattention blindness can happen when your drivers are:

  • Daydreaming
  • Talking on the phone (even with hands-free devices)
  • Talking to passengers
  • Using a navigation device
  • Texting

It’s not hard to see how inattention blindness can cause serious collisions.

How Does Distracted Driving Cost My Fleet?

Accidents cost you money. In fact, one accident can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. And distracted driving accidents are often the most costly. 

As the National Safety Council points out, distracted driving causes some of the most severe and deadly accidents. Accidents involving injuries and fatalities are guaranteed to cost you more money.

Worse yet, distracted driving accidents are likely to lead to lawsuits. If your driver is driving distracted, even if another driver broke a law such as speeding or running a light, your driver will be held at least partially accountable. You’re likely to get pulled into court to battle over culpability. Even if you win the lawsuit, you’re going to waste time and money.

The cost of distracted driving doesn’t stop at lawsuits. When your employees drive distracted, you’re at risk of:

  • Ruined reputation
  • Increased insurance cost
  • Lost time due to employees being injured or in legal trouble
  • Loss of business and customers
  • Increased vehicle repairs

Remember, one accident involving distracted driving can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars. Any money put towards preventing them is money well spent.

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How to Prevent Distracted Driving in Your Fleet

If you want your drivers to have fewer accidents, you absolutely need them to avoid distractions. Defensive driving is impossible when you don’t focus on driving. So, how do you go about making sure your company has attentive, defensive drivers?

Here are several strategies you can implement to train drivers to avoid distractions.

Effective Defensive Driving Training

Your drivers need to be made aware of how serious driving is. They also need tools to help them avoid distractions.

Companies that want to reduce collisions invest in defensive driving training/education. When you utilize a training program like The Fleet Safety Course, your drivers will learn:

  • Defensive driving behaviors and strategies have proven to keep their focus on the road
  • How dangerous distracted driving is, thus encouraging them to avoid distractions
  • Defensive driving principles like LLLC will help them be an attentive driver

Every single person who chooses a distraction such as texting and driving convinces themselves that nothing bad will happen. You need to educate your drivers so they know otherwise.

Fleet Safety Meetings

The companies with the best safety record use recurring fleet safety meetings to keep safe driving top of mind.

As we said earlier, your employee’s most important job is driving safely. The problem is, the day-to-day demands of a job can push safety out of people’s minds. You need to use safety meetings to make sure this doesn’t happen.

Here’s an example of how some of our clients implement fleet safety meetings:

  • Schedule monthly safety meetings to discuss a pressing safety topic.
  • Each month, there’s a new topic that’s covered. The topic should be a specific and important behavior, such as maintaining a safe following distance or avoiding distractions behind the wheel.
  • The safety meeting should be promoted with a new poster each month about the topic.
  • During the meeting, get people involved. It’s a best practice to use video to demonstrate the correct behaviors, but video alone isn’t enough. You need to get people involved with questions.

Of course, it can be a lot of work to create, implement, and maintain a monthly safety meeting plan. That’s why we created the Monthly Safety Initiative. It’s a “Safety Meeting in a Box.” It comes with access to videos and professionally-produced collateral. You can save time while getting guaranteed positive results.

Onboarding & New-Hire Alignment

If you’re a vocational fleet of non-CDL drivers, chances are, your drivers don’t actually see themselves as drivers. They see themselves as plumbers, electricians, pest control specialists, or any other primary job functions.

While that might be their title, they need to realize that driving is the most dangerous thing they do. And, nothing is more important than preventing accidents.

If you want employees who avoid distractions while behind the wheel, do the following with new hires:

  • Explain the importance of driving to them
  • Set your expectations with them that they are professional drivers
  • Have them sign a pledge to remain attentive behind the wheel
  • Instate and enforce a strict no-phones policy while driving

Fleet Management Technologies

There are two pieces of technology that any fleet should consider: event video recorders and cell phone-blocking technology.

Event video recorders are cameras that record and store any g-force event like hard braking or collisions. They’re most often used to prove your driver wasn’t at fault in a collision, but they can also be used to catch bad behavior.

Event video recorders will help you find and correct unsafe behaviors like distracted driving.

Additionally, you may want to consider cell phone-blocking technology. These are systems that block cell phone use while the vehicle is turned on or in motion. Most of them are highly customizable to your needs.

Proper Selection & Hiring Process

Proper onboarding, training, and event video recorders play an important role in reducing distracted driving. However, for a select few individuals, there’s nothing you can do to convince them to put the phone down or to keep their focus on the road. They are willing to accept the risk of distracted driving.

You need to ensure that you don’t hand the keys over to these folks.

A proper selection and hiring process will help you find the ideal candidate who is risk-averse and takes their role as a professional driver seriously.

Here are some selection and hiring processes to help you hire the right person:

  • Structured interviews
  • Checking MVRs before hiring
  • Self-directed personality assessments
  • Situational judgment tests

If you want to learn more about developing selection and hiring processes, book a meeting with us here.

Invest in Protecting Your People

Distracted driving presents a major risk to companies. Distracted drivers lead to increased cost of loss, tarnished company reputation, works’ comp, and even court dates. However, you don’t have to accept distracted driving as a fact of life at your company.

If you educate your drivers on defensive driving, align them with your safety culture, and only hire employees who are risk-averse, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with lower accidents and cost of loss.

You’ll save yourself time, money, and headaches while protecting your people. 

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