Learn about the three types of driver distraction and tips that can help your drivers avoid them.

Man on the phone in a vehicle

Many drivers believe they are vigilant while behind the wheel of a vehicle. But in 2016, 3,450 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Driving is a complex task that includes monitoring other drivers, watching for pedestrians and cyclists, maintaining proper following distance, and managing directions to get to a destination.

These tasks are often how drivers become distracted even for brief moments that may seem inconsequential at the time. While the media focuses on texting, taking phone calls or even watching videos, any casual glance away from the road has the potential to end up in disaster

Three types of driver distraction

Even though drivers intend to operate vehicles safely, it’s more realistic to expect some distraction along the way. Drivers can be distracted in three different ways, but the distraction itself can include more than one of these categories:

  1. Manual — activity that takes one or both hands off of the controls (e.g., eating and drinking, tuning the radio)
  2. Visual — distracting a driver’s eyes from the road or from the mirrors that assist view
  3. Cognitive — anything that takes our mind off of the duty of driving carefully

Many drivers perceive their own driving habits to be safe or superior to other drivers on the road. Further, per repetitive annual surveys, drivers effectively demonstrate a “Do as I say, not as I do” attitude. For example, there is fairly strong disapproval toward using a hand-held cell phone while driving (68.6%), but more than 2 in 3 drivers report talking on their cell phone while driving in the past month.1

Tips for drivers to help avoid distractions

All drivers should recognize that no driver is perfect, but still fully responsible for their own actions. Despite best intentions, distractions can and do occur. The following steps can help keep drivers focused:

  • Be educated on the risks and consequences of distracted driving at least once a year to refresh old material and learn new trends.
  • Sign a pledge form committing to eliminate as many distractions from business-related travel as possible. (Examples are available in our Loss Control Bulletins.)
  • Install a free app from the cell provider that automatically recognizes when a vehicle is in motion and responds to texts and calls with a pre-set message indicating that the driver will return their call when it is safe to do so.
  • Preplan routes to help minimize the possible distraction of looking at maps or navigation screens while driving.
  • Organize personal effects within the vehicle’s cabin to make items easily accessible without reaching or looking away from the road.

graphic showing driving distraction statistics

Provided by The National Safety Council

What you can do to help your drivers

Upgrade vehicles to include forward collision warning, pedestrian detection and lane departure warning so that technology can help be a vigilant copilot. If trading in vehicles, perhaps you can include automatic emergency braking and other collision avoidance systems. These types of systems can be very helpful in detecting threats and avoiding crashes, and you can learn all about these systems at MyCarDoesWhat.org.

Share these articles with your supervisors and employees as one more way to spread the word. If you need more information about distracted driving and ways to combat its negative influence on driver safety results, consider these resources:

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