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The Cost of Distracted Driving and its Impact on Fleets

Distracted driving is a difficult issue for fleets. Driver safety is the most important factor of driver management, and driver distractions are an enormous issue contributing to accident causations.

By: Connor Palumbo, Marketing Manager at Nocell Technologies

Distracted Driving Over the Last Decade

As a fleet manager, you probably have heard or seen details of distracted driving incidents in the industry or experienced an incident in your fleet first hand. Multi-million-dollar Nuclear Verdicts and soaring insurance premiums can stifle any organization.

Cellphone use while driving has increased from 0.6 percent of all drivers in 2009 to 9.7 percent of all drivers in 2018, according to the IIHS. Many factors contribute to an increased likelihood of commercial drivers using their cell phones while driving including:

● Extended time on the road
● Frustration with traffic
● Boredom
● Staying socially connected
● Internal and external pressure to be productive while driving

Technological advancements, especially in our mobile devices, have played a large part in the increase of distracted driving. As smartphone capabilities evolved, so has their usage while driving.

Text messaging is one of the leading culprits of distracted driving. For most, texting requires looking at a phone’s screen, typing and reading to confirm a message. It’s a process that dramatically hampers the ability to operate a vehicle safely. In a recent study, done by Arrive Alive, texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times.

Additionally, the average time one looks down at their phone while driving is five seconds. Driving at 55mph over a five-second span equates to the length of a football field where a driver’s eyes could be off of the road. Since cellphone use increases the chance of a safety-critical event by 165 percent, it’s imperative to work towards eliminating distractions to your drivers.

The Cost and Impact on Your Fleet

Distracted driving incidents and crashes impact your fleet financially, legally and even your brand. The financial burden of crash-related expenses can be overwhelming. When a distracted driving crash occurs, it costs the employer on average $72,442.

Over the last decade, insurance rates in the fleet industry have increased by 10-15 percent year-over-year. Having accidents on your policy will compound these expenses. When drivers use cell phones while operating a vehicle, it can create serious liability issues for their employers. Under the legal theory of vicarious liability, employers are held responsible for collisions caused by their employees.

One of the main considerations underwriters look at while issuing your policy is your safety and compliance history and the safety measures your fleet takes. Some of the criteria include:

● Driver Training
● Proper Vehicle Maintenance
● Telematics Systems
● Fleet Safety Technology
● Historical Safety Record
● Distracted Driving Incidents

In most legal cases like these, cellphone records are the first item subpoenaed to determine whether the driver was distracted by their mobile device. This can lead to what everyone in the commercial fleet industry knows as Nuclear Verdicts. These verdicts are not common, but the impact of only a handful can drive double-digit annual insurance inflation for the entire commercial fleet industry.

Employers must consider the indirect costs to a company, as well as costs that are not covered by insurance like loss of potential business and other costs that are incalculable, such as accident-related Worker’s Compensation and emotional distress to employees and their families. These add a massive cost multiplier to an organization for every dollar paid out by insurance.

According to the International Loss Control Institute (ICLI), uninsured losses range between $6.50 and $43 for every $1 paid out by insurance after a motor vehicle collision at work.

When it comes to reporting the total impact caused by distracted driving, we are still limited due to the under-reporting of the total information. The National Safety Council estimates that 27 percent of crashes were caused by cellphone use in 2015 when only 14 percent were reported by the NHTSA in 2015.

Take a Proactive Approach

Fleets need to take appropriate safety measures to protect their drivers, asset, and the communities they operate. This starts by actively working to curb the dangerous habit of cell phone use while driving. Organizations that implement safe driving policies and training programs are taking a step in the right direction.

Keep in mind, self-policing and retroactive policy enforcement are not enough. Even with devices that record and report when drivers are distracted, the enforcement of policy is retroactive. The best way to effectively eliminate the risk of distraction in the first place is a proactive solution.

Leveraging technology can also play a critical role in the promotion of distraction-free driving. Solutions like distracted driver management platforms, telematics devices and in-dash cameras are powerful tools for fleet managers. Pairing those with a fleet management software centralizes your critical fleet data to make analysis easier than ever.

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