March 17, 2023

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month! Every year, this nationwide initiative serves as a time for all drivers — from everyday commuters to professional drivers — to reflect on how their regular habits can make our roadways and communities safer. At Omnitracs, we have an intimate understanding of how critical safety is to both the present and future of our industry’s evolution.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “nine people in the United States are killed every day in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.” And since many drivers are hesitant to admit when distractions cause accidents, this figure is likely much higher.

When it comes to professional drivers, blame is paramount. Yet, the stigma surrounding these drivers — particularly commercial vehicle drivers — is misplaced. That’s why it’s more pertinent than ever for fleet professionals to empower drivers to protect themselves and remain alert all year. In this blog, we’ll talk about what “distracted driving” entails, how drivers can avoid it, and why technology like video-based safety matters.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is a term used to describe any behavior that diverts attention away from the primary task of driving. This includes things like talking on the phone, texting, eating, and making adjustments to the radio. The most significant distracted driving issue is not the commercial or last-mile driver — it’s other distracted drivers. That’s why professional drivers must be especially aware of their surroundings and the increasingly distracted behavior of their neighbors on the road.

Commercial drivers should ensure they have a reasonable following distance, which varies depending on their vehicle, to avoid collisions with reckless drivers. Additionally, they should also make sure they’re not pinned in between vehicles and are always keeping an out so that if a crash or incident happens in front of them, they have room to maneuver and avoid the situation.

In addition to increasing awareness of protective habits, drivers should recognize their seemingly harmless behaviors contributing to distracted driving risks. A distraction is anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road and their brain away from the cognitive function of driving.

The CDC identifies three main types of driver distraction:

  • Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: Taking your mind off driving

Examples of distracted driving include:

  • Talking on the phone or texting while driving
  • Eating while driving
  • Adjusting the radio while driving
  • Applying makeup while driving
  • Reading while driving
  • Watching videos while driving

How to Prevent Distracted Driving

Fleet managers play a critical role in educating and training drivers on these distractions. Part of a well-established safety program involves educating drivers and their families on the risks of distracted driving. This program must also include focused training geared toward management and back-office staff.

If you’re behind the scenes in a fleet operation, here are some essential questions to ask yourself:

  • Before calling the driver, is the driver off the road and parked in a safe space?
  • Is there too much technology in the cab that could distract the driver?
  • Do you have priority messaging, such as the text-to-speech functionality we offer, in place to minimize driver distractions?

Last but not least, an effective program should help drivers recognize the activities or habits they may not even be aware of that distract them from driving. Many drivers are well aware of the hazards of texting and driving, and they incorporate best practices to prevent these behaviors. Fleets have done a great job of educating their drivers on these risks. However, many other habits can be equally distracting to perform while driving, such as picking up a phone to select a new playlist or podcast.

These activities can keep drivers’ eyes off the road for ten seconds or more. They’re just as risky as texting, but they’re not always perceived the same way. Reminding drivers to leverage voice recognition technology, like Siri, to play a podcast or playlist can boost safe driving behavior.

Distracted Driving Prevention at Omnitracs

At Omnitracs, we remain steadfast in our support of professional drivers. At Omnitracs, we remain steadfast in our support of professional drivers. Our solutions make it so that we deeply understand how well-trained professional drivers are. We aim to design our solutions to accommodate and enhance the driver’s day-to-day experience.

The majority of the time, commercial drivers are not at fault for collisions. Our data points to this number being higher than 90% in most fleets. The right industry approach to the distracted driving epidemic shouldn’t focus on scolding the drivers who work diligently to keep the flow of goods moving safely. Rather, it should emphasize the real role external factors play.

Our data confirms there is an increase in distracted driving in passenger vehicles. For commercial fleets, this often manifests in a rise in sideswipe collisions, which occur when passenger vehicles hit the side of a truck, sometimes without the truck driver even realizing they’ve been hit. Due to increasing sideswipe collisions, many fleets are opting to deploy three or more cameras on their trucks to protect and exonerate their drivers.

Video-based safety programs are imperative for today’s professional drivers. With the blame for collisions historically falling on professional drivers, cameras provide reliable and impartial witness testimony to every incident, positioning your legal team to exonerate innocent drivers.

For drivers who may have increased their risk over time, a proactive video safety program works to uncover these situations, allowing drivers to be more aware and self-coach themselves to reduce risk and avoid collisions. It also allows management to be more targeted and proactive within their fleet, making training and coaching more effective. Both of these tactics result in improved safety and lower collisions.

If you’re ready to enhance your driver safety program all year long, take a look at our distracted driving prevention resources, or video-based safety solutions, or contact us today.

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