Distracted driving is one of the most talked about aspects of fleet management and for good reason. Statistically speaking it’s one of the most dangerous things you can do on the road, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine determined that the risk of an accident caused by cell phone use is on par with driving while intoxicated.
Union Leasing has compiled a series of blog posts to help managers out there better understand this deadly epidemic. This three part series illustrates why you should care about distracted driving through statistics about crashes and fatalities, an examination of liability laws and specific incidents in which companies have been held liable, and what you can do to keep your drivers safe on the road and you company free of liability.
A Little Background Information
Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and/or your concentration off the act of driving. Most of us already know this, but some people are surprised at just how many actions contribute to distracted driving. These include:
● Texting or talking on the phone
● Eating and drinking
● Talking to passengers
● Using a navigation system or maps
● Watching videos
● Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
There are a lot of things that contribute to distracted driving, but of the many types of driver distractions, texting and/or making phone calls is a primary concern, and the one we will be focusing on.
There are a few reasons for this. According to David Teater, senior director for the National Safety Council (NSC), cell phone use has the highest risk exposure out of all these actions.
The concern with cell phones comes in two parts. Not everything we do on a phone is the most risky thing we can do while driving; for example talking on a cell phone while driving is less risky than texting or e-mailing. Spending a long time reaching around in your back seat looking for something can also be very dangerous, but drivers are spending more and more time on phones than ever before.
Continually being exposed to cell phone conversations while driving causes a lot of crashes. In other words, not only do cell phones both greatly increase our likelihood of crashing or near missing, but also drivers are using their phones often while driving. That’s a pretty bad combination. Focusing on preventing activities that cause the greatest number of crashes in which people are injured or killed is the most effective way to cut down on accidents and fatalities.
Let’s talk numbers:
● As of December 2013, 153.3 billion text messages were sent in the US
● According to the Nation Occupant Protection Use Surveys at any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010.
● That means at any given moment 10 percent of all drivers are distracted by a cell phone.
● According to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for approximately 4.6 seconds. If a vehicle is traveling at 55 mph that’s the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
That’s a lot of texts being sent and a lot of distracted driving. Considering that dialing a phone makes drivers almost 6 times more likely to crash or near miss, and texting makes drivers 23 times more likely to crash or near miss, it’s no wonder cell phone use alone accounts for approximately 8 drivers’ deaths per day. Cell phone use also accounts for:
● 600,000 crashes, 330,000 injuries, and 3,000 deaths per year.
● According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) as many as 25% of automobile crashes are caused by driver distraction due to mobile phone usage.
● In a single year crashes caused by distracted driving cost businesses over $40 billion.
● And according to the NHTSA on-the-job crashes cost employers over $24,500 per crash, $150,000 per injury, and $3.6 million per fatality.
What’s worse is these numbers aren’t changing much. Although people killed in distraction-caused crashes decreased slightly from 3,360 in 2011 to 3,328 in 2012. 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver; this was a 9% increase from the estimated 387,000 people injured in 2011 (NHTSA).
Distracted driving, especially mobile phone use, is an expensive aspect of driving, and it hasn’t changed much in the past several years. As part of the fleet industry you have the opportunity to change the way people drive.
Awareness is the First Step
Sharing these statistics with anyone who drives can make people more aware on the road. Be on the look out for the next two blogs in this series that deal with company liability and strategies to eliminate distracted driving.