A statistic from the National Safety Council indicates that approximately 26% of all car accidents in North America are the result of distracted driving. Given that the majority of the claims on dealership insurance programs involve vehicle accidents, the issue of distracted driving should be of particular importance to your dealership.
We are all aware of the possible charges and hefty fines associated with texting and driving, however, distracted driving can be caused by many factors beyond handheld cell phone use. The issue is not just the act of taking your hands off the steering wheel, and holding a device, but rather the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in any other activity. Distracted driving results in more than 15 deaths per day across North America.
On average, it takes a minimum of five seconds to read a text message. In those same five seconds, driving at a speed of 60 km/h, you would travel more than 91.44 metres (300 feet) or the distance of an average city block. This is a frightening statistic when you consider that 80% of all crashes and 65% of near-crashes involve driver inattention for only three seconds prior to an incident.
When categorizing types of distractions, there are three main groups:
- Visual – “Eyes on the Road”: Visual distractions are anything that can be seen and cause a driver to divert their attention from safely operating a motor vehicle. These include reading billboard advertisements, looking at scenery, and even viewing electronic information or entertainment (“infotainment”) systems within the car itself. With regards to cell phone use for voice calls, it has been suggested that your field of vision narrows and drivers can miss seeing up to 50% of what’s around them when talking on a cell phone, hands-free or not.
- Manual – “Hands on the Wheel”: Manual distractions occur when the driver takes one or both hands off of the steering wheel for any reason including, but not limited to, making seat and mirror adjustments, adjusting infotainment controls, eating or drinking, personal grooming, and dialing or texting on their phones.
- Cognitive – “Mind on Driving”: Cognitive distractions refer to mental distractions which cause drivers to not focus on the act of driving. Although listed separately, it is important to note that cognitive distractions are often the result of visual or manual distractions. A few examples of cognitive distractions would be talking with a passenger, being preoccupied with personal or work-related issues, or even listening to the radio.
To help avoid instances of distracted driving, it is important to focus on educating drivers rather than simply enforcing laws. As with seat-belt and drinking and driving campaigns of the past, education, understanding, and social unacceptance have proven to be far more effective as opposed to implementing harsh penalties. As such, below is a list of suggested guidelines that have been created to help mitigate distracted driving losses:
- Turn off phone. There is no safe way to make a call when driving, not even hands-free.
- Send and read text messages and emails before you start driving or after you have finished driving.
- Schedule breaks to stop, park safely (not by the side of highway), and respond to messages.
- Using voice features on cell phones are also distracting. Take care of communications before you start driving.
- Know where you’re going. Program your global positioning system (GPS) device before you start driving.
- Social media can wait.
- Park in a safe area if you must make or take a call immediately.
- Do not call or text people if you know they are driving.
Implementing these eight guidelines in your employee or risk management manual could go a long way in helping to mitigate accidents due to driver distraction. Contact your Risk Management team to discuss distracted driving and the implementation of standards for your dealership.