As a fleet administrator, risk manager, owner or CEO, you set an expectation of employee conduct and performance. This extends to their time behind the wheel representing your department, your products or your company. You want them to be courteous, defensive drivers who focus on the road and avoid distractions. But do you know how many distractions your team members face behind the wheel every day? Research has shown work interruptions can add up to more than 6 hours in a given day. This is even more true behind the wheel where there are a litany things that can distract a driver, those that are intentional and those that are unintentional. And they can usually be broken down into three categories: visual, manual and cognitive. You’ll notice right away that they’re interrelated, and mobile devices can cause distraction in any or all three categories. So to understand how to combat these competitors for attention, you must first understand the three types of distractions and how they can affect your drivers.
Visual distractions are the most common type of distraction—basically they are anything that take driver’s eyes from the road or even for a split-second, change their visual focus from driving. It could be looking for items in the vehicle, looking at the scenery around them, or they could be looking down at their console to view a text message or watch a YouTube video. These are just a few of the visual factors that can take a driver’s visual attention from the road.
Manual distractions, as you might imagine, can be combined with visual distractions. A manual distraction involves the driver taking their hands off of the steering wheel for any reason. It may be to change the radio station or lower the volume, answer a call or send a text message, grab their cup of coffee, or eat that breakfast burrito on the way to the job site.
The last area of distractions while driving is the cognitive distractions. These are distractions that keep a driver’s mind from being focused during driving. You can probably remember times that you’ve driven down the road, most likely a barren freeway or a road you’ve traveled many times before, and you realize you cannot remember the last five or 10 minutes of the trip. This is one way a cognitive distraction takes over. If something else captures your attention, like an argument with a spouse or coworker, or you are having trouble concentrating on the road, it could lead to potential accidents. You won’t be in the right state of mind to think quickly or drive as safely as you should. Again, cogitative distractions can take on many forms: emotional stress, family or money problems, or even talking to someone else in the fleet vehicle. Using a mobile device can also involve cognitive distractions.
How to Prevent Distracted Driving
Based on findings from the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA), using a phone behind the wheel, whether for texting, calls, social media or otherwise, has the biggest potential for distraction while driving. This is because it combines all three forms of distraction, manual, visual and cognitive.
We encounter or engage in many of these types of distractions without even realizing it. But for safe driving, your employees must have their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel, and full attention on the road and driving defensively. When you think about your safe driving vision for your company and begin teaching your employee drivers about avoiding distracted driving, it is important that they avoid all types of distractions behind the wheel. Here are some of the top things drivers can do to avoid distracted driving:
- Finish meals, grooming, etc. before getting behind the wheel.
- Program any GPS directions before starting your trip.
- Complete calls, texts, emails, etc., prior to vehicle movement
For many employees, the temptation or perceived need to use their phones behind the wheel is just to strong. Even with education, continuous training and consequences, employees are still using their phones and getting into accidents. It's imperative you look at how you're enforcing your policies and reinforcing the training.