This post is part of a series sponsored by IAT.
Only 2.5% of people can effectively multitask even under the best conditions. It’s not good odds if you’re multi-tasking behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.
When multitaskers get behind the wheel, the consequences can be deadly. Nine people in the United States are killed every day due to 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 ending 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 regarding cell phone use, including civil penalties for drivers up to $2,750 and disqualification for drivers 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 has had no impact on the overall numbers.
Reversing the distracted driving epidemic instead requires a true cultural change agent, like what the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) initiative did for drunk driving. What started with a mother on a mission has effectively reduced the number of drunk drivers by 50% since 1980.
Carriers must commit to sharing the risks of distracted driving to help save lives on the road. Creating internal policies and practices is an important first step. When they do, companies have two options: to ban or to strongly discourage distracted driving.
4 best practices for carriers
The future of your fleet relies on drivers staying focused and safe on the roads. If the unthinkable happens and there is a crash, you need to have a defensible policy in place.
Here are four ways to protect your business from claims and prevent your drivers from being distracted:
- Use emotions to drive home the stakes. Sharing personal stories was one way MADD reduced the number of deaths. Use a strategy that includes personal testimonials from an employee about the effects of distracted driving or host someone who has been directly affected by distracted driving to talk to your drivers.
- Educate and train with accurate information. In a recent survey on transportation hazards, one-third of respondents reported that they do not have education programs about the harms of distracted driving or tips to avoid these practices for their drivers. When drivers are given accurate, realistic information, drivers will make the right choice. Create a distracted driving program that increases awareness.
- Enforce policies in place. In Hartford, Connecticut, driver cell phone use decreased 6.8% to 2.9% over three years by enforcing usage laws with the help of police. Don’t just have a no-call policy, but publicly reprimand when incidents occur and encourage compliance.
- Use telematics and cameras in the cab. “Trust but verify” is key to driver safety. Recording the driver’s actions can be crucial if a collision occurs in proving that there was no wrongdoing. Going a step further and using telematics proactively can alert dispatch when a driver is on the phone or otherwise violating distracted driving rules. As a carrier, you must use this data to proactively monitor and improve driver behavior to reduce liability.
Taking steps to prevent distracted driving shows your commitment to keeping everyone safe on the road. Committing to compliance is key to reducing liability and ensuring drivers focus on safety on a daily basis.
Contact IAT for more information on how to create a program to prevent distracted driving and reduce risk.
 Science Times “Science Shows Multitasking Doesn’t Work”, July 2020.
 US 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 growing concern, survey shows,” April 2022.
 Chaudhary, NK, Casanova-Powell, TD, Cosgrove, L., Reagan, I., & Williams, A. (2012). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Evaluation of the NHTSA Distracted Driving Demonstration Project in Connecticut and New York pdf iconexternal icon(DOT HS 811 635). US Department of Transportation, Washington, DC.
Development of personal car training
Interested in Distracted driving?
Get automatic alerts for this topic.