Distracted driving facts: Common causes and solutions
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Did you know that almost half of young drivers reported texting or emailing while driving in the last 30 days?
Distracted driving is plaguing our fleets and fleet owners are looking for answers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted drivers on U.S. roads killed 3,166 people in 2017 alone. Due to the widespread use of smartphones, distracted driving has become an epidemic. In this blog post, we have compiled some distracted driving facts to encourage all drivers to eliminate risky behavior.
What is considered distracted driving?
Distractions can come from many sources, above and beyond mobile phones.
You are considered a distracted driver if you do any of the following behind the wheel:
- Eat or drink
- Talk with people in your car or on the phone (even hands-free)
- Text, scroll or search on your phone
- Apply makeup
- Play with the radio or navigation system
- Smoke or vape
- Reach for something on the floor
- Look at maps or read directions
Any activity that takes your attention away from driving, even for a second, is considered distracted driving. Small actions like changing the radio station or checking a map can be dangerous, since they take your eyes off the road.
There are four types of distracted driving:
- Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel. The European Commission states that a driver’s hands should be ready to “steer and change gear at all times”
- Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
- Cognitive/Mental: Thinking about something else while driving
- Auditory: Being distracted by noise from a ringing phone or conversation (mobile or in-person)
Distracted driving laws from around the world
Here is a quick comparison of some distracted driving regulations around the world:
Law— It is illegal to use a hand-held phone in the European Union (EU). Some EU countries also ban the use of a hands-free device.
Penalties— €100 fine or €200 plus a one month driving ban if the use of a phone while driving causes an accident.
Law— Legislation was passed in Buenos Aires, Argentina that prohibits the use of a hand-held phone to write or read texts while driving.
Penalties— The minimum penalty is $50; the maximum penalty is $500. This also includes a 5 point charge on the driver’s license; the license is revoked when a driver reaches 20 points.
Law— In the United Kingdom (UK), it is illegal to hold a phone or navigation device while you are driving. Hands-free use of mobile devices is permitted, although the device must not block your view of traffic.
Penalties— Fines from £200, plus 6 points off your driver’s license up to being banned from driving or a £2,500 fine for bus and truck drivers.
Law— The state of California prohibits the use of cell phones or electronic wireless devices by drivers unless it is an emergency. Drivers under 18 are not allowed to use any cell phone or wireless devices, whether hand-held or hands-free.
Penalties— $162 fine for a first offense; $285 for a second offense. Other distractions (eating, grooming, etc.) can be considered “reckless driving” and incur greater fines and demerits.
Law— In the Philippines, it is illegal to take a call, read or send text messages, play games, watch movies, read e-books or browse the internet while driving.
Penalties— Motorists who violate this law are subject to a maximum fine of ₱20,000 plus a driver’s license revocation.
New York City
Law— It is prohibited to drive with a portable electronic device in New York State. This includes talking, viewing, taking photos, playing games, browsing, sending emails or text messages on a hand-held mobile device. One exception to this law is using a vehicle-attached GPS device.
Penalties— $200 fine maximum for a first offense; up to $450 for a third offense within 18 months, plus up to 5 driver violation points.
Law— Drivers cannot text, email, use social media, take photos, video message or hold the phone in New South Wales, Australia. Use of a mobile phone is allowed if it is in complete hands-free mode, not blocking the driver’s view, or the vehicle is parked.
Penalties— $344 fine ($457 in a school zone) plus 5 demerit points for illegal use of a mobile phone. Double demerit points are in effect during certain holidays to reinforce safe driving.
Law— Japanese regulators have increased the penalties for distracted driving to increase road safety and reduce accidents.
Penalties— Three penalty points for mobile phone use while driving and six points where a person was endangered. Fines relate to vehicle size (ranging from ¥25,000 for large cars down to ¥6,000 for motorbikes). Up to six months in prison or up to ¥100,000 fine for repeat offenders.
Law— In the province of Ontario, it is against the law to use hand-held communication and electronic devices while driving (e.g. mobile phone, iPod, laptop, etc). It is also illegal to view display screens unrelated to your driving. The only exception to this law is using your phone to call 911 in an emergency.
Penalties— $615-1000 for a first offense, plus up to 3 demerit points and a 3 day suspension; up to $3000 for a third offense plus 6 demerit points and a 30 day suspension. Novice drivers face longer suspensions. Further penalties apply if driving is classed as “careless” or “dangerous”.
Distracted driving facts and statistics
The statistics associated with distracted driving are shocking, but apparently not shocking enough to convince drivers to put their phones down.
- You are 4 times more likely to crash when using a cell phone while driving.
- When you send or read a text, you take your eyes off the road for approximately 5 seconds.
- The average speed in the U.S. is 55 mph (88.5 km/h), which means taking your eyes off the road for 5 seconds is equivalent to driving with your eyes closed for the entire length of a football field.
- According to the Government of Ontario, one person is injured in a distracted driving-related incident every half hour.
- In Ontario, deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000.
- Every day in the USA, 481,000 drivers use cell phones or other electronic devices at any time.
- Each year, distracted driving is a factor in 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America, according to the RCMP.
Ready to put that phone away now?
Texting and driving
Texting and driving is incredibly dangerous, and yet so prevalent. Almost half of young drivers reported texting or emailing while driving in the last 30 days, as found by a 2013 study published in Pediatrics. The European Transport Safety Council cites two recent studies that found 36% of drivers in the Czech Republic said they used their phone “almost every time they get behind the wheel” and 25% of drivers in Spain admit to using their phone while driving.
A poll conducted by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) in November 2017 found that more than 80% of the country’s population believes texting and driving is more problematic than it was three years earlier, despite the increase in public education and regulations. With 96% of respondents claiming texting and driving is a threat to their safety on the road, the poll found that this concern is now tied with drunk driving as the top road safety concern amongst Canadians.
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), an employer may be held legally accountable for the actions of a negligent employee if the employee is on duty at the time of a collision. This is called vicarious responsibility and employers are being held liable for up to $25 million for employee crashes. Not to mention, the costs of these accidents alone are astounding. The average collision cost per vehicle annually is $4,000 to $8,000. These figures could devastate your bottom line as a business owner.
See also: Duty of care for fleet managers
Distracted driving awareness campaigns and education
Numerous campaigns and educational programs are in place to help combat distracted driving. These initiatives bring awareness to the problem, present facts and resources, and often provide a network of people to share stories with and bring about collective change.
Distracted driving campaigns you can follow on social media:
Phones Down Eyes Up campaign
@Geotab launched a Phones Down Eyes Up campaign to raise awareness about the need to eliminate distracted driving. A benefit concert was held in September 2019, attended by 600 people who raised $2000 for a scholarship program in memory of Brandon Walli, shedding light on the dangers of device distraction.
Distracted Driving Awareness Month
The National Safety Council (@NSCsafety) participates in Distracted Driving Awareness Month every April to motivate people to rally together and recognize the risks associated with distracted driving to eliminate preventable deaths. Workplaces are encouraged to share resources with staff to highlight the dangerous and life-threatening outcomes of distracted driving. You can follow the campaign on Twitter by searching #JustDrive.
Decide to Drive
Decide to Drive is a campaign started by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Auto Alliance. The campaign website is designed for drivers. Access driving tips for staying safe behind the wheel, plus check out their Wreck-less checklist. Printable posters and postcards are available on the site to promote safe driving and encourage discussion. On social media, find them via @DecidetoDrive and #NoSmallDistractions.
It Can Wait
Mobility provider AT&T began a movement called It Can Wait. To date, more than 39 million people have taken the pledge to drive distraction free. Follow @ItCanWait and #ItCanWait for campaign updates.
Distracted driving technology solutions
Some fleet owners have implemented their own distracted driving programs, but this depends upon driver compliance. Early programs have relied upon agreements and written policies to guard against the use of cell phones in the vehicle. Technology can support companies in their efforts to reduce distracted driving.
Here are some examples of the tools available to help fleets eliminate distracted driving and promote safe behavior behind the wheel.
Cameras are an effective way of curbing distracted driving. Fleet managers can review in-cabin video footage and perform random audits to ensure their drivers are following procedure. These tactics, coupled with Geotab telematics, allow fleet managers to quickly alert drivers to the same event in the video to identify exactly what was happening at a specific moment.
For example, one of our newest solutions, Surfsight, is an AI-powered dash cam equipped with high definition road-facing and cabin-facing cameras. It automatically detects distracted driving and dangerous incidents, providing fleets with on-demand video evidence retrieval on the Geotab dashboard. Surfsight provides a simple, easy-to-install and manage video solution within the MyGeotab platform.
Netradyne’s Driveri solution is also equipped with cameras. Offering 360 degree views, Driveri combines video, AI and edge computing to improve driver performance. The solution’s GreenZone feature offers positive feedback on good driving behavior and identifies at-risk driving before it becomes critical.
Other tools incorporate automated driver coaching. Predictive Coach Add-In, for example, identifies poor driver behavior based on data from the Geotab GO device, then automatically assigns relevant training to the specific driver while documenting the corrective action for management. Predictive Coach monitors risky behavior such as speeding, hard braking, rapid acceleration and lack of seat belt use — all signs of distracted driving.
Another tool that helps drivers improve their driving habits is the D2Go Driver Challenge, which offers an exciting new way to engage, motivate and coach drivers. This solution turns driving into a friendly competition. Using gamification, D2Go scores drivers and compares them on selected key performance areas. Trends are tracked and analyzed to give both drivers and managers insight on who needs improvement, and who deserves recognition. To learn more about fleet safety management, see our driver safety management solution page.
When your focus leaves the road, things happen quickly. Distracted driving has devastating and irreversible consequences. While tools are available to improve the problem, nothing will make an impact unless drivers alter their mindset and eliminate risky behavior.
Drivers must pledge to end distracted driving and incorporate strategies into their daily lives to combat the issue. You cannot drive safely unless 100% of your attention is on driving.
How is your fleet combating distracted driving? Let us know. Share your story on social media and tag @Geotab.
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Geotab's blog posts are intended to provide information and encourage discussion on topics of interest to the telematics community at large. Geotab is not providing technical, professional or legal advice through these blog posts. While every effort has been made to ensure the information in this blog post is timely and accurate, errors and omissions may occur, and the information presented here may become out-of-date with the passage of time.
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