How to Tackle Fleet Distracted Driving

June 17, 2019 | Blog
Fleet Distracted Driving Training

Advice to Fleet Managers on How to Prevent Distracted Driving with Fleet Training

With the rise of mobile technology, it is hugely important that fleet managers put into action a safety training program aimed at eliminating distracted driving among fleet drivers. Let’s say your company has already implemented, or is in the process of implementing, a best-practices cell phone policy that covers, as per the National Safety Council’s guidelines, all employees, all cell phone devices, all company vehicles, all company cell phone devices, and all work-related communications.

For the policy to work effectively, it needs to be supported by a fleet training and safety program whose purpose is to break those distracted driving behaviors that are prohibited by the policy. Frankly, a driving policy without training won’t be effective, and fleet managers cannot expect their drivers to get on the road without comprehensive distracted driving awareness and fleet safety training.

Knowing what needs to be done is easy; the hard part is knowing how to structure and run a distracted driving prevention training plan for your fleet. What follows is advice and information for fleet managers on how to do just that. The training program is divided into two straightforward coaching phases: in-house training and practical, on-the-road training.


Phase One: In-House Training

In-house training programs starts with the simple goal of increasing awareness of the dangers of distracted driving among fleet drivers.


1. Stats and Facts

Distracted driving is considered an epidemic on the roads today. Educating fleet drivers on the basic risks of distracted driving means hitting them with stats and facts. And when that is done, you hit them again. The first step in changing drivers’ ingrained attitudes is making sure they don’t forget the disastrous realities of distractions while driving. There are a lot of fleet distracted driving training tools and resources to help fleet managers or a company’s safety administration achieve this.

Stats and Facts I: Health & Safety

  • Research studies have found that the risk of a crash is four times as likely when a person is using a cell phone – handheld or hands-free.
  • Every day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes and motor vehicle accidents that are reported to involve a distracted driver
  • The National Safety Council estimates 25% of crashes involve cell phones (21% phone conversations; 4% texting)
  • Distracted driving claimed 3450 lives in 2016 alone.
  • Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of workplace fatalities, accounting for 24% of all fatal occupational injuries.


Stats and Facts II: Financial

All employees should make their fleet drivers aware of the impact of a distracted driving incident on the company’s bottom line and, by extension, everyone’s career in the company:

  • On-the-job accidents are costly to employers, incurring costs of more than $24,500 per property damage crash and $150,000 per injury crash. Moreover, a company will see a hike on its insurance premiums if one of its fleet drivers is ticketed for violating distracted driving laws, not to mention involved in a distracted driving incident.
  • In terms of financial costs incurred by liability, the costs are colossal as juries are reacting strongly against distraction driving crashes:
    • In 2007, a tech company had to pay $21.6 million when one of its drivers, while using a cell phone, was involved in a fatal crash
    • In 2008, a commercial fleet transportation company had to pay $24.7 million when one of its truck drivers, while texting and driving, caused a fatal crash
    • In 2005, a paper company had to pay $5.2 million when one if its employees caused a serious accident after they were distracted due to cell phone usage

These are just some of the eye-popping stats that illuminate the importance of implementing a top-notch driver distraction training program in fleets both large and small. And, remember, the costs of fleet distracted driving training are a drop in the ocean compared to potential enormous liability expenses, for fleet owners of all sizes.


2. Bust Some Myths

A good distraction driving training course will feature a lot of myth busting. Bad attitudes to driving distractions are not helped by the following prevailing myths about distracted driving:

  • Hands-free beats handheld every time, right?
    • Nope. Over 30 research studies compiled by the National Safety Council have found that hands-free devices provide no safety benefit while driving, because hands-free devices do not eliminate the cognitive distraction of conversation.
  • Multitasking behind the wheel can be done.
    • No, it can’t. Multitasking while driving increases the likelihood of crashes due to delayed breaking times and not seeing traffic signals.
  • Distracted driving is really only a problem among teen drivers?
    • Again, false. Distracted driving affects people of every age.
  • Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is more dangerous than distracted driving?
    • Actually, not so. This is a myth that always surprises people. Stats tell us that distracted driving is in fact more dangerous than driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


3. Hear Real-Life Stories

Stats are for the head. Training needs to get to the heart, too. As hard as they are to relate, stories of personal tragedy need to be told to fleet drivers so that they understand the sad outcomes of distracted driving incidents. Survivor advocate stories can become powerful tools to remind drivers never to use cell phones behind the wheel. Showing drivers how one text or one phone call while driving a motor vehicle can change lives forever goes a long way toward gaining driver buy-in on a company’s distracted driving fleet policy.


4. Get to Know the Laws

It is imperative that fleet managers and fleet management inform and educate their drivers about the federal and state laws related to cell phone use and text messaging. Currently, only 14 states in the U.S. and the District of Columbia ban hand-held cell phone use while driving; however, 46 states and the District of Columbia ban drivers from text messaging while driving. Get familiar with what is prohibited and where.


5. Policy Training

A key part of an in-house distracted driving fleet safety training program is educating drivers about the distracted driving policy that you have implemented. When talking about this policy:

  • Explain clearly why the policy is being developed, how it will be maintained and operated. Require employees to acknowledge that they understand and agree with the terms of the policy.
  • Educate the drivers about the full extent of the best-practice model, focusing in particular on the total ban on the use of mobile devices while driving. Point out that on-the-road coaching will take place to reinforce these (see next section).
  • Define penalties for noncompliance. Once you’ve communicated a distracted driver avoidance program, let drivers know the penalties for not following protocol. This will help policy enforcement. But you must also have a reward system in place to incentivize drivers to behave safely on the road.


6. Technology Solutions

Companies may wish to introduce distracted driving tech solutions into their fleet. In this case, it has to be explained why these solutions are being installed, how the system operates and its unique features and benefits. Explain that on-the-road training will be provided to educate drivers about how to use a distracted driving solution practically during everyday missions. Employees must understand that the goal of collecting data is to improve fleet safety and not to pressurize drivers to meet their targets.


Phase Two: On-The-Road Training and Evaluation

Only a practical behind-the-wheel distracted driving training program will break bad driving habits. As mentioned above, a company should put in place best-practices safety protocols in accordance with their safe driving policy. Practical training sessions will form a key part in making sure these practices are followed by drivers.

Here are just some of the best practices that a supervisor will monitor during behind-the-wheel evaluations of driving skills and behaviors.

  • Driver has their cell phones turned off before starting the vehicle.
  • Driver has made all adjustments before setting off. These include GPS, climate control, and sound systems, as well as mirrors and seats.
  • Text messages and emails have been sent before employee starts driving.
  • Driver has planned “rest” periods into their trips every two to three hours to check emails and return calls.
  • No attempt has been made to make calls or check/send emails while stopped at a traffic light.
  • Driver’s eyes are always kept on the road and cool-looking buildings or eye-catching billboards have not caused a distraction.

These are many other safety best-practices procedures that a company will outline in their distracted driving policy and which will be included in a supervisor’s checklist when coaching a driver on the risks of distracted driving and preventing distracted driving within their fleet. The goal of the evaluation is to help the driver learn to better recognize and respond to traffic hazards and stay focused on driving.


Ongoing Fleet Safety Training:

However, a once-off driver-training session won’t do the job. Companies with the best road safety performance generally provide “refresher” driver training every 2 to 3 years (the leading companies also provide corrective training to drivers who are involved in a crash where they were at fault). Every training-based approach to minimizing distracted driving must include:

  • Ongoing driver education and driver safety evaluation programs
  • Regular reinforcement of the policy through reminders and other actions to emphasize the importance of ending distracted driving
  • Regular monitoring of compliance with the distracted driving policy and consequences for non-compliance
  • Inclusion of driver safety performance metrics into employee performance evaluations
  • A company safe driving culture that supports driver safety and is modeled by leadership

Safe driving training should address the additional issues of aggressive driving, unsafe driving, other elements of driving distraction, hard braking, fatigued driving and drowsy driving, defensive driving and defensive driving training, and best practices for driving on a national highway and operating in highway traffic.

In summary, a comprehensive fleet distracted driving training program is one that combines in-house training with practical, behind-the-wheel driving evaluations. See the key benefits of fleet distracted driving training that result: In the short term, training breaks dangerous driving habits, protecting both drivers and the communities in which they operate; in the long term, it protects an organization against the rising costs of distracted driving crashes, while also safeguarding a company’s reputation and bottom line. So let’s get our distracted driving policies straight and our fleet safety programs underway.

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