The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Study Explores Distracted Driving Rates

Research reveals commercial fleet drivers are distracted an average 8 percent of time behind the wheel. The research also indicates safe driving policies and programs can reduce risky driver behavior.

October 2009, by Mike Scott - Also by this author

Fleet managers can develop a better action plan for improving fleet driver safety while reducing accidents and other incidents with the help of a new in-vehicle, video-based study by SmartDrive Systems, a driver safety and fleet savings solutions provider.

Released in late August, the study investigated more than 50 types of driver distractions and determined commercial drivers are distracted an average of 8 percent of active driving time. The study also revealed evidence showing businesses that institute some level of safe-driving policies designed to reduce distractions will positively impact their fleets.

Study Reviews 384 Fleets

The study reviewed nearly 6,200 vehicle-years of data across nearly 25,000 drivers from 384 commercial fleets. Researchers evaluated video records for distractions that can't be quantified by non-video approaches, such as cell phone use, texting, use of maps or navigation, eating, drinking, smoking, and other distractions resulting in drivers taking their eyes off the road for more than two consecutive seconds.

The research also examined incidents in which drivers' hands are engaged with something other than driving for more than three consecutive seconds.

Through the use of SmartDrive programs, those fleets were able to slash these risks by 50 percent or more, the study found. Other such solutions can also have a positive impact on vehicle fleets.

Identifying Distracted Drivers

Reasons for distracted fleet driving can vary. However, software and hardware products offered by such companies as SmartDrive can help identify those reasons. With an in-vehicle video camera, the San Diego-based company's program captures events with a 55-point safety review and analyzes the reasons for distracted driving.

In data validated independently by risk management, reinsurance, and human capital consultant Aon, collision incidents involving vehicles analyzed as part of this SmartDrive study declined by 53 percent.

Perhaps the most serious type of distraction is text messaging or e-mailing with a cell phone while operating a vehicle. A recent study by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute indicates texting while driving increases the risk of an accident or incident by 23 times.

Using a program such as SmartDrive Systems, fleet managers can record risky driving behavior. Recorded video is triggered by a G-force event - acceleration, sudden side-to-side movement, heavy braking, or a manual trigger by the driver.

Loomis Armored, an armored transport service, recently deployed the SmartDrive fleet safety solution in 1,000 units of its armored vehicle fleet.
"We have been able to quantifiably reduce our collisions, send drivers home safe at night, and reduce our fleet expenses with the help of SmartDrive," said Danny Pack, senior vice president of risk management at Loomis. "Being able to do both simultaneously is very rewarding for the company and our employees."

The recorded data can reveal to fleet managers much about the causes of distracted driving. They can use it as a positive reinforcement tool, not to punish drivers, but to offer constructive criticism and lessons on improving driving performance.

"I think anyone would be surprised by their own road behaviors," said Jeff Seacrist, marketing director for SmartDrive Systems.

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