How to put the brakes on distracted driving in your fleet

One of the biggest concerns for fleet managers and health and safety managers is driver safety and focusing on ways to reduce risky behaviors and distracted driving.  

We all know distracted driving is dangerous and leads to close calls, accidents, and even the loss of life. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving lead to the deaths of 3,166 people in 2017 alone. We tend to think of phone use as the only distracting temptation in our vehicles, but there are a few other things that can lead to drivers diverting their attention from the road to something else.  

In this post, we’re outlining the top seven distracted driving behaviors and sharing some tips to minimize distracted driving in your fleet. These ideas can help reduce accidents, save lives, and cut costs for your fleet.   

Stop these 7 distracted driving behaviors in your fleet 

1. Phone use 

Our biggest distraction fits perfectly in our hands. Whether texting, talking, reading, or even streaming videos, we spend a lot of time paying attention to our phones – even in the car. The NHTSA found that reading or sending a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. That doesn’t sound like much, but when traveling at 55 mph that’s similar to driving the length of a football field with your eyes off the road.  

How to stop it: Invest in technology that disables phone use. At Derive, we have Distracted Driver Prevention (DDP) application that locks down a driver’s paired cellphone as soon as the driver shifts the gear out of park. DDP™ doesn’t allow the driver to access any other apps, texts, calls, or emails without going into park or requesting an emergency unlock, which is logged and sends a notification to a designated supervisor. Before getting out on to the road, drivers can set their destination in the app’s navigation feature and hear audible navigation commands and directions. Technology like this allows your drivers to still complete their jobs, but keeps their eyes off their phones and on the road.  

2. Standalone navigation device use  

While many drivers use the GPS in their phones, there are still vehicles equipped with their own navigation systems or fleets using external systems. Having your drivers tapping away at a screen, and one that’s generally not as responsive as smartphones, takes their eyes off the road and could be frustrating, leading to other risky driving behaviors.  

How to stop it: Like stopping phone use, you can look at DDP technology that allows them to use navigational features to get them where they need to go, but doesn’t allow them to switch screens. You can also make it part of your road safety policy that all drivers must set their destinations prior to driving their vehicle. It might take an extra minute or two, but the time is worth it to keep their attention where it needs to be.  

McDonald's drive-through

3. Eating, drinking, and smoking 

Fast food restaurants make it so easy to eat on the go, but eating and drinking while driving is a big distraction. From unwrapping food or trying to open a drink, or even lighting up for a smoke, drivers hands aren’t on the wheel and they may glance at the road but they’re not focusing on it. The NHTSA has recorded many accidents where drivers may be looking at the road but aren’t actually seeing what’s in front of them.  

How to stop it: Add break times for meals and require drivers to take them. They may also use this time for smoking, checking emails, etc. If they want to eat in their vehicle, make it mandatory that they must be in park and in a safe place to eat.  

4. Paying attention to in-car distractions 

Every driver has had the moment where something is sliding around or fell to the floor and you can’t help but reach for it. But that reaching moment isn’t just taking your eyes off the road, it’s taking your hands off the wheel too. It can reduce a driver’s reaction time and be the difference between a close call and a collision.  

How to stop it: Train drivers to secure items before shifting out of park and that if they must pick something up from the floor, to pull over and do so safely. Also discuss other distractions, like adjusting music and talking to others in the car.  

5. Struggling to adapt to a schedule change  

Many of us are creatures of habit and changes to our schedule can mess up our day and our mood. The same can be said of your drivers. If you have John who normally starts driving at 9 a.m. but now he’s on a shift that starts at 6 a.m., he might show up more tired than usual and stressed about the different driving conditions he could be facing at this time. He’s more likely to fall into bad habits and risky behaviors.  

How to stop it: Use your telematics system to plan better routes to keep scheduling consistent. If you must change a schedule, give enough notice to the drivers so they can adjust accordingly, for sleep, meals, or other commitments outside of work. Also work in time for breaks and prep drivers on any challenges they may face on the road, like high traffic.   

Driver sleeping on the steering wheel

6. Drowsy driving 

Most of us aren’t giving 100% when we’re tired and with the CDC reporting that an estimated one in 25 adult drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel, drowsy driving is something that needs to be taken seriously. Drowsy driving and fatigue can slow down a driver’s reaction time or encourage them to take short cuts or rely on risky driving behaviors to get to their destination faster.  

How to stop it: Train your drivers to identify the warning signs of drowsy driving, like: 

  • Yawning frequently 

  • Blinking frequently 

  • Drifting out of the lane 

  • Missing exits 

  • Hitting rumble strips 

Similar to the schedule change point above, make sure drivers are getting enough sleep, at least seven hours each night, keep drivers on a schedule, and make sure drivers aren’t on the road impaired by medications or alcohol.  

7. Reacting to internal and external stressors 

We’re all human. We get distracted and we get stressed out, which can enter our professional lives even if we don’t want it to. Drivers can easily get distracted by other vehicles on the road and just as easily get distracted about a problem they have outside of work, letting their mind wander away from the task at hand.  

How to stop it: Have check-ins with your drivers and an open door policy so drivers can communicate freely and honestly with you about anything that might affect their work and potentially put other drivers at risk. Remind drivers of the resources they have access to, like Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), to help with internal stressors. Provide coaching to teach drivers how to handle external stressors, like rush hour traffic, and use driver scorecards to hold drivers accountable for their on-the-road behaviors.   

How do you prevent distracted driving in your fleet? We invite you to share your ideas on LinkedIn and get the conversation started on how we can stop distracted driving for fleets. 

Interested in Derive’s Distracted Driver Prevention features? Contact us to learn more!