The importance of distracted driving awareness cannot be overstated. It is a critical issue that fleet managers must address with their drivers. Every April, the National Safety Council (NSC) highlights the importance of eliminating distractions behind the wheel. According to NSC, at least eight people a day are killed in distracted driving crashes.
NSC's yearly campaign, Just Drive, is meant to help remind drivers to eliminate the distractions around them for their safety and for the safety of those around them.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), four common driver distractions affecting safety include:
- Talking or texting on the phone.
- Eating and drinking.
- Talking to people in the vehicle.
- Fiddling with the stereo, entertainment, or navigation system.
According to NHTSA, sending or reading a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.
Spreading Awareness About Distracted Driving
Fleet managers are encouraged to urge their drivers to remain focused on the road. Santa Clara County, California, Fleet Manager David Worthington is running a campaign for his fleet during the month of April to spread awareness about distracted driving. Some of the measures he is taking include:
- A dedicated webpage with flyers, videos, graphics, statistics, and external webpage links related to distracted driving awareness.
- Placing Distracted Driving flyers in vehicles and equipment that come into county maintenance facilities during the month of April.
- The continued innstallation of decals discouraging phone use on all vehicle dashes during preventive maintenance and repairs.
- A banner on the county's main webpage about Distracted Driving Awareness Month with a link to a page on the county fleet operations' website about the importance of avoiding distracted driving.
- Banners at county fuel stations to remind drivers about Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
The banners and flyers have QR codes on them that take people to the county fleet's website. The team is tracking how many people use the QR codes as an idication of the impact of its outreach efforts.
Additionally, Worthington has encouraged fleet team members to add the graphic below to their email signatures.
Worthington says he hopes the campaign will spur conversations about the importance of focusing while driving.
"The County of Santa Clara employs approximately 22,000 employees and if each employee discussed the dangers of distracted driving with two friends or family members and they in turn communicate the dangers to two more people and this happened ten times, the message would reach over 45 million people. We don’t expect our campaign to reach 45 million people, but we do expect it to affect the behavior of people unaware of the risks of distracted driving," Worthington says.
The Center for Disease Control suggests several practices to prevent distracted driving, including banning all phone use, requiring workers to pull over in a safe location to look up directions, text, or to make or receive a call, using technology that detects and warns drivers of distracted driving, and other practices.
Staying Focused in Connected Vehicles
As vehicle technology evolves, drivers have begun to rely more on advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) to aid them in driving and parking functions. This can lead the driver to focus less when they're behind the wheel. As NSC states, "even the most advanced safety feature cannot replace a safe, focused driver in the car." Further, NSC calls the driver a vehicle's best safety feature.
NSC published a campaign alongside the University of Iowa Public Policy Center on ways to best interact with ADAS, with a website called MyCarDoesWhat.org. It uses videos, graphics, social media, and other resources to educate drivers on the latest safety features for vehicles and proper ways to use them. NSC is not discouraging drivers from using ADAS altogether. Rather, it is encouraging drivers to use the features wisely. The technology works well when paired with focused drivers. An NSC report estimates that existing technologies that comprise ADAS could save up to 10,000 lives per year.
The Cost of Distracted Driving
A 2019 report by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety reveals that on average, a non-fatal injury crash at work that involves distraction costs an employer a whopping $100,000. In 2019 alone, U.S. traffic crashes cost employers $72.2 billion — up from $47.4 billion in 2013 — in direct crash-related expenses.
Work-related crashes can lead to increased insurance rates. They can also lead to time off the job for drivers and vehicles being put out of service, disrupting operations. But more importantly, distracted driving crashes can be fatal. According to NHTSA, In 2020:
- 3,142 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver.
- 587 non-occupants (e.g., pedestrians and cyclists) died in a crash that involved a distracted driver.
Additionally, 13% of all motor vehicle traffic crashes in the United States involved distraction in 2020.
Curbing distracted driving is crucial. As NSC puts it, "when you're behind the wheel, your only job is to drive."
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