Drivers are challenged to balance job responsibilities and should operate their vehicle safely. If your mind isn’t focused on driving while you’re behind the wheel, you’re mentally distracted from...

Drivers are challenged to balance job responsibilities and should operate their vehicle safely. If your mind isn’t focused on driving while you’re behind the wheel, you’re mentally distracted from the task. 

Photo: Automotive Fleet

Distraction has been an issue for drivers as long as we’ve operated motor vehicles. But today, it’s more prevalent and on the rise for various reasons

The facts don’t lie: distraction affects your driving and safety behind the wheel. Understanding what happens when you’re distracted while driving and how it impacts your driving capabilities can help you view the dangers differently. 

April is Distracted Driving Month, and while attention is dedicated to the month, distraction occurs daily as many drivers spend much of their workday on the road.

Drivers are challenged to balance job responsibilities and should operate their vehicle safely. If your mind isn’t focused on driving while you’re behind the wheel, you’re mentally distracted from the task. 

The demands of their job may stress drivers, and they may also be facing challenges at home and with family. 

Whatever the source of the stress, it’s likely to occupy their mind as they run through different scenarios, think about the problem, or worry about what may happen. 

If it occupies their mind while driving, it’s taking attention away from the critical task of driving safely.

Why Are Drivers So Distracted?

The fast pace of life today encourages people to multi-task, even while driving. When you’re feeling hurried, you may view your drive time as downtime or a good time to catch up on other tasks on your lengthy “to-do” list.

The pace of business is accelerating, creating more pressure for business drivers to multi-task and leaving little room in their schedules to handle necessary tasks while not driving.

Many vehicles are equipped with infotainment systems, advanced technologies, and navigation systems. Like a cell phone, anything that takes your attention from driving — physically, mentally, or visually — increases a driver’s risk.

How Has Distracted Driving Evolved into A Dedicated Month?

Shelley Forney, safety speaker and advocate, lost her daughter Erica tragically to a distracted driver. It was through Forney’s reverence and U.S. Rep. Betsy Markey’s commitment that they submitted to Congress a resolution in 2010 to designate April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. 

A distracted driver can be held responsible for a crash that they caused, as it is a form of negligence that causes serious harm to you or another driver.

During an investigation, a crash may be found to have been caused by distracted driving if a driver admits to law enforcement to being distracted, if witnesses provide statements, if the driver’s distraction is caught on video with dash cameras that record facing both the road and inside their vehicles, or with audio recordings.

The types of crashes may suggest distraction was a contributing factor. Rear-end crashes are the most common because drivers do not notice that the drivers in front of them have slowed down or stopped, as their eyes are not focused on the road. 

Failing to stop at stop signs, drifting into adjacent lanes, and pulling out in front of other drivers can be prevented if today’s drivers do their due diligence to avoid distraction.

Distracted Driving Technology for Fleets

One of the main reasons distraction and a lack of focus cause crashes is that any form of inattention delays when you perceive and respond to a situation on the road. 

The more time you need to progress through perceiving and responding, the less time and space you will have to avoid a collision. 

Let’s say you’re driving on a multi-lane highway with heavy traffic. The vehicle in front of you is only a few car lengths ahead. You hear an alert that a text message has come into your cell phone sitting on the seat next to you.

You pick up the phone and glance at the screen to see who the text is from. While you’re looking away from the road, the driver in front of you slams on his brakes to avoid debris. But you don’t see that happen because your eyes are on the phone, not the road.

Phone blocking technology is a proactive approach to changing driving behavior. Hardware is installed either in the vehicle or through an app that detects drives and blocks cell phone usage. 

Behavior can be changed because the option to text or talk is blocked, managers analyze reports and data, and scores are tracked and shared with drivers, as they know they are monitored to be safe and alert without distractions while driving a company vehicle. 

These blockers and apps are detected when the electronic device is picked up while driving.

Fleet safety cameras offer features such as integrated GPS tracking, on-demand video retrieval, monitoring of speeding and harsh braking, and can detect distracted/drowsy driving. 

Cameras can protect a fleet with event capture capabilities, provide location-based access searches as to a vehicle’s location, decrease risk with real-time-in-cab audio alerts, notify drivers to take corrective action, warn of potential accidents, and reduce drowsy driving and distracted driving by up to 96%. 

Distracted driving is a serious and common problem on our roadways, contributing to thousands of entirely preventable fatalities each year. 

Many things compete for our attention today, even behind the wheel. When we allow them to distract us from driving, the results can be devastating. 

Looking away from the road for “just a second” could cost you as much as half the time you need to avoid a collision.

This article was authored and edited according to Automotive Fleet's editorial standards and style. Opinions expressed may not reflect that of Automotive Fleet.

About the author
Judie Nuskey

Judie Nuskey

Director of Operations

Judie Nuskey is the director of operations at Advanced Driver Training Services (ADTS) and assists corporations in creating custom driver training programs to lower (or keep low) their crash rates.

View Bio