The Costs of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is more dangerous than you think. While something as simple as pulling out your phone and texting as quickly as possible or eating lunch in your car may seem harmless, driving with even the smallest distraction could actually be a serious threat to your own life and the lives of others nearby. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that, 5% of all motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. involved a distracted driver and a total of 2,841 driving fatalities occurred due to a distracted driver.

Without second-guessing yourself, you can likely recall a time when your eyes left the road and you didn’t get into an accident. However, a task like texting encourages your eyes to move and focus on something else for more than a few seconds. Texting while driving takes your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. It might not seem like a long time, but when you’re moving at 55 mph, it’s nearly equivalent to driving the length of a football field while keeping your eyes closed or completely out of focus with what’s in front of you, as the NHTSA described.

It’s time to put the cell phone down and remove any other potential distractions that could lead to a fatal accident. Let’s take a closer look at what defines distracted driving in 2021, how commercial drivers are impacted by distracted driving and our best preventative guidance to avoid motor vehicle accidents.

What is considered distracted driving?

The definition of a driving distraction has many interpretations, but in general, distracted driving is defined as any type of activity that diverts your attention from the road, where your eyes should be while handling a motor vehicle. Some of the most common forms of distracted driving include:

  • Texting or talking on your cell phone
  • Talking to the person in the passenger’s seat, or anyone in the vehicle
  • Playing with the stereo or entertainment system
  • Fiddling with the navigation system
  • Eating and/or drinking

Anything that takes your eyes off of the road while driving is considered a distraction and can be very harmful to not only yourself but also the passengers in your own vehicle and the other drivers and passengers joining you on the road.

The CDC lists 3 different types of driving distractions:

  1. Visual: Taking your eyes off the road. This would most likely involve texting or using your cell phone in another way. Even turning to look at the person in the back seat for a second is considered a visual distraction. Numerous studies document the risks inherent to visual distracted driving. One of the better-known examples comes from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), which discovered drivers simply dialing numbers on a cell phone nearly tripled the risk of an accident or close call.
     
  2. Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel. Doing something like having lunch on the go means relying on one hand to take care of the driving while the other one helps to satisfy your hunger.
  3. Cognitive: Taking your mind off driving. Sometimes, you don’t need a cell phone in your hand to be considered a distracted driver. As AAA described, cognitive distracted driving is the hardest type to observe and measure, but that doesn’t make it any less impactful. Worrying about running late to an appointment or making it home after work on time are two examples of thoughts that could cause cognitive distracted driving.

While visual distractions may be the most common kind, manual and cognitive distractions are critical to consider and discuss when determining ways to prevent distracted driving.

Did you know that accident risk is greater for company drivers?

Distracted driving is dangerous for anyone, but it’s an issue that’s become more prevalent in commercial drivers over the years. In fact, according to the CDC, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths across the country. Between 2003 and 2018, almost 30,000 workers’ lives were lost in work-related vehicular accidents.

In terms of non-fatal injury crashes at work, those that involve a distraction cost the employer about $72,000 on average.

The previously mentioned VTTI study found commercial drivers dialing a phone number were nearly 6 times more likely to be involved in an accident than those who paid attention to the road. Text messaging made the risk of an accident over 23 times more likely.

Of course, even if the worst-case scenario doesn’t happen, texting while driving is strictly off-limits for commercial drivers in all 50 states and multiple violations may result in a motorist losing their license. The takeaway: No text message is worth the life of an employee or bystander, or the livelihood of your business. All employers are encouraged to have a distracted driving policy.

How to prevent or reduce distracted driving

Did you know that April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month? Now’s a great time to take this serious issue into your own hands and do your part to prevent fatal accidents from occurring in the future. If you need to send a text, pull over or allow one of your passengers to send the message for you. Otherwise, keep your eyes on the road and off of your cell phone.

Despite our best efforts, and the awareness of potentially devastating consequences, driving distractions are enticing and difficult to resist. This means that, even if you avoid multitasking while on the road, commercial and fleet drivers are still subject to the reckless behaviors of other motorists.

So what’s the answer to staying safe while driving?

Defensive driving is the best way to avoid motor vehicle accidents and involves keeping your eyes on the road and being mindful of other drivers who may be distracted and driving dangerously.

FFVA Mutual offers a 4-hour defensive driving course several times a year at our corporate office at no cost to policyholders. To schedule training at your workplace, click here to view more information and complete an online safety training request form or contact your safety consultant.

Related Distracted Driving Resources from FFVA Mutual: