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Distracted Driving Technology: What to Keep in Mind
Mariah Barr
8 mins read

This Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Get Up to Speed on Helpful Tech & the Latest Legislation

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. During this month, we like to bring even more attention to an incredibly important topic that affects everyone, not just truck drivers.

From fatigued driving to texting while driving, distractions can run the gamut—and have deadly consequences. But aside from raising awareness, can anything else be done to combat distracted driving among truckers, like innovative technology?

That's what this article aims to answer. Below, we're going to discuss . . .

    A brief overview of distracted driving legislation

    Stats about distracted driving

    Innovations in distracted driving technology

    What trucking companies can do to combat distracted driving

Where do things stand with distracted driving legislatively?

It's been nearly a decade since the FMCSA published rules prohibiting operators of CMVs from texting while driving or using handheld mobile devices.

Since then, 48 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving for ALL drivers. (As we go to press, the two holdouts are Montana and Missouri.)

And, of course, the requirement for electronic logging devices (ELDs) came about in an effort to combat one of the biggest causes of distracted driving among truck drivers: drowsiness.

Recently, the Stay Aware for Everyone (SAFE) Act was introduced to the Senate. Also known as the SAFE Act of 2021, the bill "requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct research regarding the installation and use of driver monitoring systems to minimize or eliminate driver distraction, driver disengagement, automation complacency, and the foreseeable misuse of advanced driver-assist systems."

In addition, the DOT "must also issue a final rule to establish performance standards for driver monitoring systems and require those systems to be installed on all new passenger motor vehicles. It must incorporate privacy and data security safeguards in the rule."

The American Trucking Associations came out in support of the SAFE Act of 2021, but as of right now, the Act remains in Committee.

    DID YOU KNOW? Distracted driving involves more than fatigue and texting while driving. Other things that can distract include drinking and eating, fiddling with the radio or some other technology like a GPS, and being upset or angry.

What are some recent stats about distracted driving in the trucking industry—and the consequences?

The most distracted truck drivers are nearly 72% more likely to be involved in a "near collision" than other drivers, according to Truckinginfo.com. The site goes on to report these troubling stats:

  • Truck drivers distracted by their phones are involved in collisions at a rate 2 times higher than the least distracted drivers.
  • Drivers identified as "most distracted" roll through stop signs and traffic lights at a rate 2.7 times higher than the least distracted drivers.
  • Drivers identified as "most distracted" drift out of their lane at a rate 2.3 times higher than those identified as "least distracted" drivers.

GPS Insight released a Fleet Safety Report in 2022 that says the fleets it surveyed totaled about 4.5 accidents per truck driver in a year, and 1/3 of those were the driver's fault.

Distracted driving can have deadly consequences (it claimed 3,522 lives in 2021 according to the NHTSA). And while injury and death are undeniably the biggest consequences, distracted driving has economic, financial, and legal consequences as well, especially for businesses like trucking companies.

Think things like . . .

  • Skyrocketing insurance premiums
  • Costly litigation (including potential nuclear verdicts, which are on the rise)
  • Negative publicity that adversely affects consumer confidence in (or perception of) your brand

Have there been any innovations in distracted driving technology?

Yes, thanks to things like wearable tech that can alert drowsy drivers, devices that can block the use of phones in trucks, and artificial intelligence (AI) that can monitor things in real-time.

Regarding the latter, small cameras with facial recognition can be installed in the cabs to monitor what's happening on the road and what the driver is doing. This article in Tech Target talks about one such product called Nauto that "also measures the probability of collision when drivers are distracted or tailgating and voice coaches drivers when the probability of collision is more than 30 percent."

The article goes on to report about a fleet using the product and how its usage has reduced at-fault accidents by 79 percent and changed the driving behavior of drivers. The changed driving behaviors include everything from truckers being better about wearing their seatbelts to significantly decreasing cell phone usage and tailgating.

The distracted driving technology marketplace continues to grow, which means fleet owners have many products to choose from. This, of course, can be a blessing and a curse. It's important to rigorously evaluate products. But how?

Fleet Owner offers good strategies for doing exactly that, including what to keep in mind, like drivers' privacy concerns and the product's customization capabilities.

But the most important thing to remember is that no technology can or should replace good driving habits.

What can trucking companies do to combat distracted driving?

    Make it a priority year-round, not just during Distracted Driving Awareness Month. April can be a good time to have drivers sign things like the Just Drive pledge or Zero Distraction pledge. But you should remind drivers year-round about staying alert, using hands-free devices, logging their drive time, and taking sleep breaks.

    Implement MVR monitoring. Even if your drivers have a clean driving record with your company, that doesn't mean an incident hasn't happened while they were driving for someone else. (Drivers often work for multiple companies.) MVR monitoring is a cost-effective way to ensure you're not using a driver who got caught driving recklessly for another fleet.

    Start planning for Operation Safe Driver Week 2023 now. Again, it's important to promote safe-driving habits throughout the year. The next Operation Safe Driver Week is scheduled for July 9-15, 2023. July will be here before we know it.

    Thoroughly assess any distracted driver technology you're thinking of investing in. Make sure you have a clear plan for communicating with drivers about the new tech along with a plan for rolling it out.

Need help with MVR monitoring, ELDs, and driver qualification files?

Foley is your source for all things DOT compliance, including tackling distracted driving.

Our easy-to-use platform will give you more time to focus on fostering a culture of safety in your fleet and helping to create safer roadways for everyone. Request a demo to see our software solution in action.

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