Texting While Driving: A Deadly Combination
U.S. drivers are witnessing the gruesome results that can occur as a result of texting while driving, and fleet drivers are no exception. Fleet managers can avoid a potential tragedy by immediately banning texting while driving.
It should go without saying, texting while driving can be a lethal combination because it requires drivers to look down at their phones rather than the road ahead. A relatively new phenomenon, texting is as dangerous as driving drunk, perhaps even more so.
According to a recent Car and Driver study, drivers who text while operating a vehicle are 3-4 times slower than drunk drivers in applying brakes to avoid collisions. Although many states have already or will employ some form of texting ban by 2010, such legislation has been slow to catch on because oftentimes it takes a tragedy before lawmakers react.
Establish Best Practices
The goal of every fleet manager is to run the company fleet in the safest, most cost-effective way possible, which means controlling expenses from company vehicle repair and liability claims due to driver negligence.
To establish that control, fleet managers should apply a best-practices safety and risk management policy to each driver, running a motor vehicle record (MVR) check and evaluating accident data before determining driver eligibility for a company vehicle, according to Bob Martines, president and CEO of Corporate Claims Management Inc. (CCM), a fleet management company specializing in accident management, subrogation, and safety training based in Ivyland, Pa.
"Our role is to educate our clients and help them recognize a potential problem individual. Fleet managers should ensure drivers know the obligation to their company and be aware of the 'what-ifs,' including lawsuits and injuries," Martines cautions.
Catching Up with Technology
Martines believes driving while texting is at least twice as dangerous as drunk driving because drivers are so distracted, they're not watching the road ahead. He doesn't allow his salespeople to use cell phones while driving on company time.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), by January 2010, 28 states will have prohibited, in some form, text messaging while driving. Texting is significantly more prevalent now than even a year ago, one factor in why bans have been slow to catch on.
Now, however, companies are becoming painfully aware of the consequences of driver texting habits.
Last year in New York State, a fatal accident involved a group of high school students on their way to a dance. The driver was texting, which led to a head-on collision with a truck, killing everyone in the vehicle. It took a tragedy such as this before the state reacted and passed a texting while driving ban, according to Martines. Some companies actively back legislation. Ford Motor Co. endorses a U.S. Senate bill to ban handheld text messaging while driving.
"I believe in the next six months to a year, texting laws will be mandated across the board," Martines predicts. "Laws aren't quick enough to keep up with technology. Once there is a loss of life, people get injured, or companies get sued for millions of dollars, that's when people tend to react."