This post is part of a series sponsored by IAT.
Only 2.5% of people can effectively multitask even in the best conditions. That’s not great odds if you’re multi-tasking behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.
When multi-taskers get behind the wheel, the ramifications can become deadly. Nine people in the United States are killed every day because of distracted driving.
Anything that takes time and attention away from the road contributes to distracted driving, including texting, eating and emailing. A multi-faceted approach to end this practice requires enforcement and commitment from all drivers — individuals to commercial fleet carriers.
Making a real commitment to safety
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has strict policies in place regarding mobile phone usage, including civil penalties for drivers up to $2,750 and driver disqualification for multiple offenses. They also fine employers up to $11,000 if they knowingly allow or require drivers to use hand-held devices while driving. But, it hasn’t made an impact on the overall numbers.
Instead, reversing the distracted driving epidemic requires a real cultural change agent, like what the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) initiative did for drunk driving. What began with one mother on a mission has effectively reduced drunk driving deaths by 50% since 1980.
Fleet carriers must get involved with sharing the risks of distracted driving to help save lives on the road. Creating internal policies and practices is a critical first step. When doing so, businesses have two options: to prohibit, or to strongly discourage distracted driving.
4 best practices for fleet carriers
The future of your fleet relies on drivers remaining focused and safe on the roads. If the unthinkable happens and there is a crash, you must have a defensible policy in place.
Here are four ways to protect your business from claims and keep your drivers from being distracted:
- Use emotion to drive home the stakes. Sharing personal stories was one way MADD reduced fatalities. Employ a strategy that includes personal testimony from an employee about the effects of distracted driving or host someone who has directly been affected by distracted driving to speak to your drivers.
- Educate and train with accurate information. In a recent survey on transportation risk, one-third of respondents reported they do not have education programs on the harms of distracted driving or tips to avoid these practices for their drivers. When given accurate, realistic information, drivers will make the right choice. Create a distracted driving program that raises awareness.
- Enforce policies in place. In Hartford, Connecticut, driver cell phone use was reduced by 6.8% to 2.9% over three years by enforcing usage laws with the help of police. Don’t just have a no phone policy, but reprimand publicly when incidents occur and incentivize adherence.
- Use telematics and in-cab cameras. “Trust but verify” is key for driver safety. Recording driver actions can be vital if a collision does occur to prove there was no wrong action. Going a step further and using telematics proactively can alert dispatch when a driver is on their phone or otherwise breaking distracted driving policies. As a fleet carrier, you must use this data to monitor and improve driver behavior proactively to reduce liability.
Taking steps to prevent distracted driving shows your commitment to keeping everyone safe on the road safe. Committing to enforcement is key to reduce liability and ensure drivers are focusing on safety daily.
Contact IAT for more information on how to create a program to prevent distracted driving and reduce risk.
 The Science Times “Science Shows Multitasking Doesn’t Work,” July 2020.
 U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “Traffic Safety Facts Research Note: Distracted Driving 2019,” April 2021.
 FMCSA, “Distracted driving.”
 MADD, “About Us.”
 FleetOwner “Post-pandemic distracted driving a surging concern, survey shows,” April 2022.
 Chaudhary, N.K., Casanova-Powell, T.D., Cosgrove, L., Reagan, I., & Williams, A. (2012). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Evaluation of NHTSA Distracted Driving Demonstration Projects in Connecticut and New York pdf iconexternal icon(DOT HS 811 635). U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC.
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