Types of Distracted Driving

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In 2016, in the United States alone, 37,461 people died on the roads. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10% of these fatalities were distraction-related. Additionally, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety states that more than 58% of crashes involving teen drivers are caused by distraction, illustrating how the problem of fleet distracted driving extends to anyone of any age group.

By analyzing the impact of distracted driving,, industry leaders and government legislators can try to find solutions that prevent related accidents from occurring, similar to how they’ve countered fatigued driving with HOS ELD rules.

To find the best fleet distracted driving solution, we need to assess the different types of distractions on the road frequently encountered by vehicle operators. There are three types of distracted driving, each with its own implication and prevention method. 

Below, we’ll identify the three types of distracted driving, including solutions to avoid the accidents that frequently occur as a result.

The Three Types of Distractions

Anything that takes a driver’s attention off the road is a distraction. This may be texting, talking on the phone, eating, or using GPS, but it can also be as simple as talking to a passenger, listening to music, or checking the speedometer. These may seem minor, and to many drivers, they are inconsequential. However, a distraction, even for half a second, can prove fatal. That is what makes distracted driving so difficult to prevent. No matter how long you are in your vehicle, there’s going to be a distraction or two. The number of distractions only increases the longer you drive.

With that in mind, let’s look at the different types of distractions on the road.

Visual Distractions While Driving

Visual distraction is referred to as anything that occurs when a driver looks at anything other than the road ahead. Texting is typically what we think of first when we consider the visual types of distractions on the road. However, when a driver looks at anything other than the road ahead, it’s a visual distraction. It could be anything from looking in the rearview mirror to glancing down at the radio, reading a warning sign on a dashboard or addressing a passenger.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control) states that the average text takes your eyes from the road for five seconds, which is enough time for a vehicle to cross a football field traveling at 55 mph. Those who use their phones on the road are 5.36 times more likely to cause an accident than non-texting drivers, but findings at Virginia Tech suggest that the risk of an accident while texting is as much as 23 times higher.

The various types of visual distractions on the road are innumerable, especially since there is more technology in cars than ever before. We have large displays on our dashboards for entertainment and navigation. Our text messages pop up on the screen with Bluetooth connectivity. Our phones, our GPS devices, our portable DVDs for the kids — they all create a visual distraction from the road.

Not only have we packed our cars with distractions, but we’ve filled our roads with them, too. Billboards, flashing signs, sign spinners, inflatable dancers are all designed to get our attention. If the advertisements don't distract you, there are still the average traffic and hazard road signs to contend with. Either way, it seems unlikely that we’ll ever eliminate all distractions from the road.

Manual Distractions While Driving

Manual distractions, also known as physical distractions, are often intertwined with visual distractions because they involve a driver removing their hands from the steering wheel. This includes:

  • Texting
  • Changing the radio
  • Adjusting the volume
  • Answering a call
  • Eating or drinking
  • Adjusting a seatbelt
  • Reaching for something

Any distraction that requires the removal of a hand from the wheel is considered a manual distraction. The reason they are dangerous is because they impair your ability to steer and react. If something were to happen, and you need to veer, you may not have the same reaction time or ability. In addition, certain distractions may cause you to veer the vehicle unintentionally, such as reaching for something in the next seat or another area of the car and pulling the steering wheel with you. Though these distractions aren't as common as visual distractions, they have fatal consequences.

Cognitive Distractions While Driving

Cognitive distractions, or mental distractions, are ones that take a driver's mind off the road. Cognitive distractions are exceptionally common. They include:

  • Talking to a passenger
  • Emotional stress
  • Talking to someone on the phone
  • Listening to the radio
  • Thoughts (any type)

Cognitive distractions are the reason why hands-free devices are not always an effective safety measure. In fact, the NSC (National Safety Council) says that when drivers talk on the phone, even while hands-free, they miss 50% of what’s around them. However, even if you’re off the phone and keep your hands on the wheel, cognitive distractions are possible.

We all have thoughts throughout the day. When we do something we’ve done hundreds of times—i.e., driving—it becomes mundane, our minds begin to wander, and our bodies go on autopilot. We know the route home or to work, so we focus less on the familiar road ahead, and our day-to-day thoughts tend to take over. How many times have you been on the road and suddenly realized you’re at your destination, or you’ve driven ten minutes but didn’t even notice the passing of time? This is due to cognitive distractions.

How to Prevent Accidents with a Fleet Distracted Driving Solution

Fleet drivers are at greater risk of distractions than any other driver. They drive for up to 11 hours a day, rely on GPS navigation, and maintain consistent communication with management around the clock. In addition to their own distractions, they face other distracted drivers on the road. To minimize accidents on the road, organizations should aim to minimize and prevent distracted driving.

The first thing we can do is avoid texts, calls, and social media while driving. They are one of the most dangerous distractions because they involve all three types of distractions. Apart from these aversions, we can also:

  • Eat and perform similar tasks before operating a vehicle. Otherwise, pull over if you need to adjust something while on the road.
  • Program GPS before you begin driving.
  • Add an automatic reply to texts and calls.
  • Turn off your phone.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid all distractions. Even if you drive in silence, keep two hands on the wheel, and turn off your phone, you still risk the loss of focus, distracted by trailing thoughts, objects in your peripheral vision, or traffic signs on the road. Nonetheless, limiting fleet distracted driving however possible can help save lives.

Fleet distracted driving is prolific during long drive times. The cost of a single fleet vehicle-related accident costs an employer an average of $74,000, but accidents with an injury or fatality could force the loss of billions. This doesn’t take into account the potential damage to your safety score and customer relationships.

Azuga can aid your fleet risk management efforts with telematics systems and dashcams. Our GPS fleet tracking devices give you insight into driver behavior. This allows you to take corrective actions, and train your drivers accordingly. Azuga dash cams limit your liability with visual evidence in the case of an accident. Learn more about fleet tracking, risk management, and dash cams at Azuga.