Preventing Distracted Driving Starts with a Commitment to Education and Enforcement

This is part of a series sponsored by IAT.

Only 2.5% of people are able to multitask even when things are good.[1] This is not impossible if you are doing a lot of work in the back of a commercial vehicle.

When multitaskers get behind the wheel, the results can be deadly. Nine people in the United States are killed every day because of distracted driving[2].

Anything that takes time and attention away from the road contributes to driving distractions, including texting, eating and emailing. A multi-pronged approach to ending this practice requires compliance and commitment from all drivers – people at commercial fleet carriers.

Making a real commitment to safety

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict policies regarding cell phone use, including civil penalties for drivers of up to $2,750 and driver disqualifications for several offenses. It also provides $11,000 in fines to employers if they allow or require drivers to use hand-held devices while driving.[3] But, it did not affect all the statistics.

Instead, ending the epidemic of distracted driving requires a real culture changer, such as what Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) did with drunk driving. What started with one woman’s work has reduced drunk driving deaths by 50% since 1980.[4]

Carriers must play a role in sharing the dangers of distracted driving to save lives on the road. Developing internal policies and procedures is an important first step. In doing so, businesses have two options: ban, or forcefully ban, disruptive driving.

4 best ways to ship

The future of your fleet depends on drivers being focused and safe on the roads. If the unexpected happens and there is an accident, you need to have a backup plan.

Here are four ways you can protect your business from potential threats and keep your drivers from getting distracted:

  1. Use the ideas to drive it home. Sharing personal stories was one of MADD’s ways of reducing mortality. Use a method that includes personal testimony from an employee about the effects of distracted driving or get someone directly affected by distracted driving to talk to your drivers.
  2. Teach and teach with the right information. In a recent study on the dangers of traffic, one-third of respondents reported that they had no training on the dangers of distracted driving or advice on how to prevent it for their drivers.[5] When given accurate, truthful information, drivers make better choices. Create a distraction-free driving program that encourages awareness.
  3. Verify existing policies. In Hartford, Connecticut, cell phone use by drivers was reduced by 6.8% to 2.9% over a three-year period with the implementation of police-assisted use laws.[6] Don’t just have a no-phone rule, but publicly reprimand when things happen and encourage disobedience.
  4. Use telematics and in-cab cameras. “Trust but verify” is the key to driver safety. Recording the driver’s actions may be important in the event of an accident to ensure that no errors have been made. Advances in the use of telematics can quickly alert drivers while on the phone or breaking the law for distracted driving. As a shipper, you need to use this data to monitor and improve shipping practices to minimize the problem.

Taking steps to avoid distracted driving shows your commitment to keeping everyone on the road safe. A commitment to enforcement is essential to reduce liability and ensure drivers are focused on safety every day.

Contact IAT to learn more about how to develop a program to prevent distracted driving and reduce risk.

[1] Science Times”Science Shows Too Much Doesn’t Work,” July 2020.

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

[3] FMCSA, “Distracted driving.”

[4] MADD,”About Us.”

[5] FleetOwner”Post-pandemic disorder driving high anxiety, study shows,” April 2022.

[6] Chaudhary, NK, Casanova-Powell, TD, Cosgrove, L., Reagan, I., & Williams, A. (2012). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. NHTSA Inspection of Driver Display Distractions in Connecticut and New York pdf external image(DOT HS 811 635). US Department of Transportation, Washington, DC.

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