Auto insurers such as Amerisure, Cincinnati Insurance, Good2Go, and United Fire Group have been at the forefront of the insurance movement to tackle distracted driving by offering the LifeSaver program to policyholders.  - Photo: Good2Go Insurance

Auto insurers such as Amerisure, Cincinnati Insurance, Good2Go, and United Fire Group have been at the forefront of the insurance movement to tackle distracted driving by offering the LifeSaver program to policyholders. 

Photo: Good2Go Insurance

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of vehicle collision frequency. The three top causes of vehicle accidents, according to the National Safety Council (NSC), are alcohol (30.8%), speeding (30%), and distracted driving (26%).

“Insurers are saying distracted driving is more like 40%-50% of these collisions,” noted Ted Chen, co-founder of LifeSaver Mobile.  

Here are a few more stats: there are 500,000 injuries caused by distracted driving annually and 3,600 deaths annually (which translates to 10 people per day).  

Distracted driving, according to Chen, isn’t merely looking at your phone. There are three types of distractions while driving: 

  • Cognitive: your mind is not thinking about driving. 
  • Visual: your eyes are off the road. 
  • Manual: your hand or hands are off the steering wheel. 

Texting while driving involves all three distraction types. 

“Commercial drivers drive for a living," Chen explained. "They are racking up four- to five-times more miles than your average driver. No driver is immune from the allure of the phone and staying connected with their friends and family. 20% of all commercial vehicles are involved in a collision annually."

Compounding the problem: Americans love to talk on their phones. According to OECD communications, Americans averaged 356 minutes per month in outgoing voice traffic. 

The adoption of smartphone technology is steadily increasing year-over-year and is expected to continue.  

A Solution to Reducing Distracted Driving

LifeSaver Mobile is a unique fleet safety solution in that it is software-only. 

“We take a proactive approach to change driver behavior (effective real-time intervention versus the high effort necessary for coaching), and we focus on one of the leading causes of vehicle collisions: phone distraction,” Chen said. 

One of the top ways to reduce distracted driving incidents in fleet, according to Chen, is through a strong safety policy and the technology to enforce the policy. 

FACT: 

In 1963, scientist John Senders pioneered distracted driving studies, determining how much time a driver had to spend looking at the roads to drive efficiently.

“For example, our LifeSaver app helps monitor cell phone use while a dashcam can help monitor manual distractions such as eating or taking your hands off the wheel,” Chen said. 

Driver education is one of the pillars of a strong safety program. 

“Driver education is one of the five segments of fleet safety solutions that are commonly used (safety policies, online training, motor vehicle record monitoring, telematics, and dashcams). Every fleet should be taking a portfolio approach to fleet safety. Driver education needs to be consistent and tailored to each driver. Online options seem to be the best approach,” Chen said. 

Gamification, or creating some system of scoring and rewarding drivers for safe driving, is still a popular way to reduce distracted driving incidents. And, LifeSaver Mobile can be leveraged for driver scoring purposes.

“Scoring drivers is a common theme with most fleet safety solutions. This is how you can objectively measure how they are doing and whether they are improving. Rewards programs can be a good way to incentivize good scores,” Chen added. 

Additionally, fleet safety policies must address the issue of distracted driving and cell-phone use. 

“Fleet policies on distracted driving can vary depending on the company, the vertical, and the state legislation for where they are domiciled. It’s important to find a solution you can customize to enforce the policy your company has chosen to adopt,” Chen said.

Fleet Spotlight: Ivey Mechanical

Testing numerous solutions is part of just about any pilot process, and Ivey Mechanical was in the same boat with their distracted driving solutions and just weren’t happy.

“We tested several solutions but were not satisfied. We learned about LifeSaver Mobile and contacted them,” said Luther Burrell, VP administration & IT for Ivey Mechanical Co. 

Ivey Mechanical was looking for a non-intrusive app that monitored driver actions and provided management reporting options to monitor violators of company policies, especially repeat violators.  

“LifeSaver Mobile worked with us to provide a mutually beneficial product that met these needs,” Burrell said. 

The 325-vehicle fleet is approximately 50% vans and 50% ½-ton pickup trucks and is headquartered in Kosciusko, Miss., with offices scattered across the southeast. What started as a plumbing and electrical company in 1947 is now one of the largest mechanical contractors in the country.

“We accomplished one of our goals of changing driver behavior to be safer on the road along with reduced insurance costs from a reduction of our liability costs,” Burrell added. 

For this or any safety program, to be a success, there must be management support and buy-in, from senior to direct managers.

"With management buy-in and support, along with education and training, a program like this can be successful. Without complete support and buy-in, it will be difficult to accomplish your goals,” he concluded.

Ivey Mechanical was looking for a non-intrusive app that monitored driver actions and provided management reporting options to monitor violators of company policies, especially repeat violators.   - Photo: Ivey Mechanical

Ivey Mechanical was looking for a non-intrusive app that monitored driver actions and provided management reporting options to monitor violators of company policies, especially repeat violators.  

Photo: Ivey Mechanical

Accidents & Insurance Impact

Insurance providers are taking note of this epidemic, too. According to Progressive Insurance, data shows a direct correlation between distraction and loss. 

Auto insurers such as Amerisure, Cincinnati Insurance, Good2Go, and United Fire Group have been at the forefront of the insurance movement to tackle distracted driving by offering the LifeSaver program to policyholders. 

The average cost of a light-duty, non-fatal crash, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), is $65,000. The average cost of a collision for a medium- or heavy-duty truck with a fatality is $7.2 million.  

“We have found great success in partnering with insurance carriers and brokers to help educate fleets that there is a new category of fleet safety solutions that can help with phone distraction. Some insurance partners are paying for all or a portion of the cost of our solution to encourage their policyholders to use our program,” he added.

One final word from Chen on the issue of personal phones: 

“If you are issuing corporate phones or asking your employees to use their phones for work purposes, the company needs to enforce the corporate policy on these phones at all costs,” he recommended. “Employees often carry a second phone in the vehicle, but it is challenging to mandate an enforcement program on these phones because you don’t have much leverage.” 

Don’t let the possibility of an unmanageable second phone sidetrack your efforts. 

“Our insurance partners would agree that a responsible safety professional should take the approach of enforcing its corporate policy on the phones in the company’s control even if there remains some exposure from the presence of a second phone in the vehicle,” Chen concluded. 

Fleet Spotlight: North Florida Sales

North Florida Sales needed to make a change in its distracted driving incidents. The beverage delivery fleet operates approximately 120 light-duty and 100 heavy-duty vehicles and delivers products such as Anheuser-Busch, imports, ciders, local craft beers, and more to 11 counties in Florida. 

“We selected LifeSaver Mobile to help remove distractions while driving. Its simplicity in reducing distracted driving incidents was why selected the solution,” explained David Eichermuller, safety officer for North Florida Sales. 

The Jacksonville and Lake City, Fla.-based North Florida Sales, rolled out the app at the beginning of October 2019. 

“Since implementation, we have seen a dramatic change in behavior of usage of electronic devices and the way they are used,” he said. “We are working to change the behavior rather than simply prevent it.”

The fleet’s safety officer also recommended considering a safety bonus tied to such a program.

“If drivers perform well using their scorecard in the Lifesaver app, consider rewarding them with a safety bonus program,” he said.

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