While the 2023 Travelers Risk Index found that all drivers realize that distracted driving is a problem — with 70% of respondents stating that they see distraction as a bigger problem now than they did a few years ago — distracted driving remains a top issue for both fleet drivers and consumers.
The annual national online survey captures the opinions of 1,000 consumers, but the report also includes data from a separate survey of 1,116 executives responsible for driver safety at businesses of all sizes. And, the survey findings regarding employees and business fleets are disturbing.
“Broadly, the 2023 Travelers Risk Index found distracted driving is a growing concern for businesses. Thirty-two percent of business leaders are concerned that their employees are using technology while driving for work purposes, up from 26% last year,” said Chris Hayes, assistant vice president of workers’ compensation and transportation, risk control, at Travelers. “And there’s good reason for that concern — almost one-third (31%) of employees admitted to getting into crashes or collisions while driving for work because they were distracted, up from 26% last year.”
Causes of Distraction
Technology reigns supreme when it comes to distracted driving. Survey respondents identified electronic devices to be chief among the leading causes of distraction.
Some 80% of consumer drivers admit to making or receiving calls while behind the wheel, with 57% saying they use handheld devices. But distraction doesn’t stop there. Some 28% of people surveyed said they post social media updates while driving and 27% admit to taking photos or videos while operating a motor vehicle.
Using technology while driving was also a challenge cited by employers, with more than 30% of executives — a 19% increase from last year — reporting that their employees have been involved in crashes while driving for business purposes because they were distracted by their mobile devices.
But technology isn’t the only culprit. Survey data also showed that emotional distraction, drowsiness, and work-related stress all play significant roles in unsafe driving behaviors. More than 75% of drivers said that they have experienced stress or intense emotions while behind the wheel, and 62% said that they have driven while drowsy.
“Fleet managers should treat driving under emotional strain or while drowsy as a form of distracted driving and address these issues in an official policy,” said Hayes.
Employers should also be aware of how their expectations may impact their employees. The 2023 Travelers Risk Index found 87% of employers expect their employees to respond quickly to work-related messages when they are out of the office during work hours.
It should come as no surprise then that 37% of workers surveyed said they have taken work-related calls, texts, or emails while driving. As for the rationale, 44% said that it might be a work-related emergency, and 43% responded that they felt the need to always be available.
Strategies for Fleets to Combat Distraction
There are a number actions fleet managers can take to help combat distracted driving among professional drivers and employees, says Hayes.
For starters, it is essential to create a policy. The Travelers Risk Index found that 74% of businesses have official policies about employees making phone calls, texting or emailing while driving for work purposes. Some 60% percent of those businesses require employees to sign distracted driving contracts or agreements.
Noteworthy, in the transportation industry, 71% of respondents said that they have official policies about employees using their phones while driving. That’s down slightly from 73% in 2022.
“When considering a distracted driving policy, the top rules businesses should include are no use of a handheld device while driving, check directions or set GPS before driving, and pull over to a safe location to make a call, text, or email,” said Hayes.
After setting a policy, the next step is training, notes Hayes. Nearly nine out of 10 (87%) businesses that have policies in place formally train employees on their distracted driving policies.
Reinforcement is essential as well. Some 72% of companies discipline employees who do not comply with their policies while driving for work purposes. Moreover, in transportation, specifically, 67% of businesses report employees have been disciplined for lack of compliance with their companies’ distracted driving policies.
Fleet managers should also consider monitoring drivers, says Hayes. The Travelers data shows that 43% of companies use technology to track employees when they are driving.