Fleet managers can prevent distracted driving, reducing the risk of accidents, by removing distractions so drivers stay focused on everyone sharing the road with them. - Photo by Tom Saunders,...

Fleet managers can prevent distracted driving, reducing the risk of accidents, by removing distractions so drivers stay focused on everyone sharing the road with them.

Photo by Tom Saunders, Virginia Department of Transportation, via Flickr

Distracted driving leads to serious accidents, inattentional blindness, and much more. It’s a leading cause of fatal collisions and it is absolutely costing you lost time, reduction in profit, accidents, and maybe even injuries.

If you want a fleet of drivers who prevent accidents and remain attentive, you need to educate them on combating distracted driving and inattentional blindness.

In this article, you will learn:

  • What distracted driving is
  • Why distracted driving is dangerous
  • What inattentional blindness is and what causes it
  • Strategies for combating distracted driving and inattentional blindness

What is Distracted Driving?

We all have an image of distracted driving in our head: texting or talking on the phone, looking for something in your car, etc. But the reality is, distracted driving can encompass many activities that we consider harmless.

Distracted driving is defined as any activity that pulls your focus away from the task of driving. Distracted driving includes:

  • Texting and driving
  • Talking on the phone (hands-free or otherwise)
  • Daydreaming
  • Talking to passengers
  • Eating or drinking
  • Looking at something on the side of the road
  • Adjusting the A/C or radio
  • Programming a GPS
  • And much more

All of these activities greatly increase the risk of an accident.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is the most dangerous thing your drivers could do. Here are some statistics to back up that claim:

  • In 2019, over 3,000 people died due to distracted driving in the U.S.
  • Distracted driving is under-reported and the NSC estimates that cell phone use alone accounted for 27% of crashes in 2015
  • One in every five people killed in a distracted driving collision are not in a vehicle — they are pedestrians, cyclists, or otherwise outside of their vehicles
  • It’s estimated that texting and driving is six times more like to cause an accident than drunk driving

It can be difficult to really understand how these statistics impact us. Nameless statistics are often not as alarming as they should be. So, let’s frame it this way: Imagine if a fatal distracted driving collision was caused by one of your employees. How would that impact your organization? How would that impact you personally?

Distracted driving is a major obstruction to creating a safe company, but you don’t have to accept it as a reality of running a fleet. You can work to prevent distracted driving with your employees.

Inattentional Blindness

Clearly, distracted driving frequently causes accidents. But why, specifically, is distracted driving so dangerous? One of the biggest reasons distracted driving is so dangerous is because it causes inattentional blindness.

Inattentional blindness causes us to miss vital information in our driving environment. When we’re distracted, we are aware of fewer risks even if we’re looking right at them.

Studies show that distracted drivers will, on average, only see and recognize 50% of the cars on the road with them. They don’t register the other cars because the driver’s mind is focused on something else.

This is the equivalent of driving with 10 cars on the road but five of them are invisible. It should be obvious how that can cause issues.

Inattentional blindness can happen when your drivers are:

  • Daydreaming
  • Talking on the phone (even with hands-free devices)
  • Talking to passengers
  • Using a navigation device
  • Texting

It’s not hard to see how inattentional blindness can cause serious collisions.

How to Manage Inattentional Blindness

If you want your drivers to have fewer accidents, you absolutely need them to avoid distractions. Distractions cause inattentional blindness, and inattentional blindness causes serious accidents. So, how do you go about making sure your company has attentive, defensive drivers?

Here are several strategies you can implement to train drivers to avoid distractions.

Effective Defensive Driving Training

Your drivers need to be made aware of how serious driving is. They also need tools to help them avoid distractions.

Companies that want to reduce collisions invest in defensive driving training/education. Your drivers probably think they’re safe, attentive drivers. Chances are, they’re not. You need to educate your drivers on:

  • How dangerous distracted driving is, thus encouraging them to avoid distractions
  • What inattentional blindness is and how often it happens to people
  • The various types of distractions that lead to inattentional blindness, such as daydreaming on talking on the phone
  • The fact that driving is not a passive activity
  • How to change their point of focus every 2 to 3 seconds to avoid driving with a fixed stare and to remain focused
  • How to check their mirrors every 5 to 8 seconds to see their entire environment

Many of your drivers probably think that just because they don’t text and drive, they’re safe from distracted driving. This is a dangerous mindset to have. You need to educate your drivers so they know otherwise.

Onboarding And New-Hire Alignment

If you’re a vocational fleet of non-CDL drivers, chances are, your drivers don’t actually see themselves as drivers. They see themselves as plumbers, electricians, pest control specialists, or any other primary job functions.

While that might be their title, they need to realize that driving is the most dangerous thing they do. And, nothing is more important than preventing accidents.

If you want employees who avoid inattentional blindness behind the wheel, do the following with new hires:

  • Explain the importance of driving to them
  • Set your expectations with them that they are professional drivers
  • Have them sign a pledge to remain attentive behind the wheel
  • Implement and enforce a strict no-phones policy while driving

Event Video Recorders

Companies with a fleet of drivers often invest in some sort of event video recording software.

Event video recorders are cameras that record and store any g-force event like hard braking or collisions. They’re most often used to prove your driver wasn’t at fault in a collision, but they can also be used to catch bad behavior.

Event video recorders will help you find and correct unsafe behaviors that lead to inattentional blindness like driving with a fixed stare or talking on the phone.

Proper Selection & Hiring Process

Proper onboarding, training, and event video recorders play an important role in reducing distracted driving. However, for a select few individuals, there’s nothing you can do to convince them to put the phone down or to keep their focus on the road. They are willing to accept the risk of inattentional blindness and distracted driving.

You need to ensure that you don’t hand the keys over to these folks.

A proper selection and hiring process will help you find the ideal candidate who is risk-averse and takes their role as a professional driver seriously.

Here are some selection and hiring processes to help you hire the right person:

  • Structured interviews
  • Checking MVRs before hiring
  • Self-directed personality assessments
  • Situational judgment tests

Invest in Protecting Your People

Distracted driving and inattentional blindness present a major risk to companies. These risks lead to increased cost of loss, tarnished company reputation, works’ comp, and even court dates. However, you don’t have to accept inattentional blindness as a fact of life at your company.

If you educate your drivers on defensive driving, align them with your safety culture, and only hire employees who are risk-averse, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with lower accidents and cost of loss.

You’ll save yourself time, money, and headaches while protecting your people.

About the Author: John Kuder is a senior instructional designer at Avatar Fleet, the providers of A-Suite applicant tracking system. This article was authored and edited according to WT editorial standards and style. Opinions expressed may not reflect that of WT.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet