Fighting distracted driving starts with a commitment to education and law enforcement

This article is part of a series sponsored by IAT.

Only 2.5% of people can effectively multitask even under the best of conditions.[1] It’s not a big chance if you’re multitasking behind the wheel of a utility vehicle.

When multitaskers take the wheel, the ramifications can become deadly. Nine people in the United States are killed every day due to distracted driving[2].

Anything that takes time and attention away from the road contributes to distracted driving, including texts, meals and emails. A multi-faceted approach to ending this practice requires the application and commitment of all drivers – from individuals to commercial carriers.

A real commitment to safety

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict policies in place regarding cell phone use, including civil penalties for drivers of up to $2,750 and driver disqualification for multiple infractions. They also fine employers up to $11,000 if they knowingly allow or compel drivers to use hand-held devices while driving.[3] But that didn’t impact the overall numbers.

Instead, reversing the epidemic of distracted driving requires a real cultural change agent, like what the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) initiative did for drunk driving. What started with a mother on a mission has effectively reduced the number of drunk driving deaths by 50% since 1980.[4]

Fleet carriers must get involved in sharing the risk of distracted driving to help save lives on the road. Creating internal policies and practices is an essential first step. To do this, companies have two options: prohibit or strongly discourage distracted driving.

4 best practices for fleet carriers

The future of your fleet depends on the concentration and safety of drivers on the roads. If the unthinkable happens and there is a crash, you need to have a defensible policy in place.

Here are four ways to protect your business from claims and keep your drivers from being distracted:

  1. Use emotion to convey the issues. Sharing personal stories was one of the ways MADD reduced the number of deaths. Use a strategy that includes an employee’s personal testimonial about the effects of distracted driving or invite someone who has been directly affected by distracted driving to speak to your drivers.
  2. Educate and train with accurate information. In a recent transportation risk survey, one-third of respondents said they had no education programs on the harms of distracted driving or advice on how to avoid distracted driving for their drivers.[5] When given accurate and realistic information, drivers will make the right choice. Create a distracted driving program that raises awareness.
  3. Apply the policies in place. In Hartford, Connecticut, cell phone use by drivers was reduced from 6.8% to 2.9% over three years through enforcement of usage laws with the help of police.[6] Don’t just have a no-phone policy, but publicly reprimand when incidents occur and encourage adherence.
  4. Use telematics and cabin cameras. “Trust but verify” is the key to driver safety. Recording the driver’s actions can be vital in the event of a collision to prove that there was no wrongdoing. Going further and using telematics proactively can alert dispatch when a driver is on the phone or violating distracted driving policies. As a fleet carrier, you should use this data to proactively monitor and improve driver behavior to reduce liability.

Taking steps to prevent distracted driving shows your commitment to keeping everyone on the road safe. Committing to law enforcement is key to reducing liability and ensuring drivers focus on safety every day.

Contact IAT for more information on how to create a program to prevent distracted driving and reduce risk.

[1] The Science Times “Science Shows Multitasking Doesn’t Work”, July 2020.

[2] US Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “Traffic Safety Facts Research Note: Distracted Driving 2019,” April 2021.

[3] FMCSA, “Distracted Driving”.

[4] MADD, “About us”.

[5] FleetOwner “Post-pandemic distraction leads to growing concern, survey finds”, April 2022.

[6] Chaudhary, NK, Casanova-Powell, TD, Cosgrove, L., Reagan, I. & Williams, A. (2012). National Highway Safety Administration. Evaluation of NHTSA’s Distracted Driving Demonstration Projects in Connecticut and New York pdf iconexternal icon(DOT HS 811 635). US Department of Transportation, Washington, DC.

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