Cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year, according to the National Safety Council.  -  Photo:  unsplash.com/Alexandre Boucher

Cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year, according to the National Safety Council.

Photo: unsplash.com/Alexandre Boucher

Some 3,142 people were killed in distracted driving collisions in 2019, making it the cause of 8.7% of all crash fatalities that year, according to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA). April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and now is the time for fleet operators to remind drivers that distracted driving, including hands-free phone use and infotainment systems, puts everyone at risk. 

It is vital for fleet operators to take Distracted Driving Month seriously.

Experts say our roadways are more hazardous than they’ve been in decades. On a typical day, eight people are killed and hundreds more are injured in distraction-affected crashes, notes the National Safety Council. Your drivers face distracted driving risks on every trip — from the driveway to the parking lot and back home again.

In addition to lost lives, distracted driving results in about 280,000 injuries each year and it causes about 920,000 total accidents per year, according to a recent report from Bankrate.

The Bankrate report notes that while we may think of distracted driving as a new phenomenon linked to increasing technology, it is a problem that has been around for a long time.

One of the first studies to explore distracted driving was done by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and NHTSA in 2006. It found that almost 80% of crashes and 65% of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the event. While the most common distraction was cell phone use, it was actually less likely to cause a crash versus other distractions. Reaching for a moving object increased the risk nine times, whereas talking on the cell phone increased the risk by only 1.3 times.

However, cell phone use while behind the wheel should never be underestimated or tolerated. It is a growing problem and it does cause a substantial number of collisions.

The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving. And, one out of every four car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.

Fortunately, 48 states and the District of Columbia have enacted cell phone bans to combat distracted driving.

Even so, fleet operators must make sure their drivers are mindful of the distracted driving problem. With awareness month upon us, April is a relevant time to remind your drivers of the dangers of distracted driving. Tell them to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road at all times. With their full focus and attention on the act of driving and the roadway ahead, your drivers and all road users will be safer on the highways and byways this April and beyond.

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