Texting while driving is clearly a terrible idea. But while you might never do it, you can’t control what other road users do behind the wheel.
The rise of mobile technology mixed with today’s ‘productivity culture’ has fuelled a rise in distracted driving.
According to a study by the American Automobile Association, distracted driving has become the most significant danger on the road. 88% of those questioned believe distracted driving is on the rise, compared to drunk driving (45%), drugged driving (33%) and aggressive driving (20%).
And it’s a similar story in Europe. Past research has revealed drivers frequently use their phones when driving. 36% of drivers in the Czech Republic admitted to using their phone almost every time they get behind the wheel, while in Spain and Ireland, 25% of drivers in both countries confessed to using their phones while driving a vehicle.
For fleet managers whose top priority is keeping drivers, the community and vehicles safe, this makes for worrying reading.
For some, the key lies in neuroscience.
Everyone knows the risks involved, but many drivers still adopt an ‘it won’t happen to me’ mindset. But the more drivers understand the cognitive process attached to distracted driving, the more they recognise the impact they have on road safety.
Distracted driving can be divided into three categories: visual, manual and cognitive. Visual distraction involves a driver taking their eyes off the road, manual distraction involves taking their hands off the wheel. Neither are ideal in terms of road safety, but they are simple to understand.
Cognitive distraction is more complex. It refers to when a driver takes their attention away from driving, increasing the risk of missing vital driving cues despite their eyes being on the road.
Texting while driving falls into all three categories.
To put it into perspective, sending a text while driving might take a driver five seconds. But driving at 55mph that’s equivalent to driving the length of a football pitch with your eyes closed.
Tiredness is another big issue. Missing just one or two hours of sleep can more than double the risk for driver error. The more tired the driver, the less they display conscious attention and an ability to spot and react to changes in the driving environment. Add to that additional distractions such as texting or even just taking a sip of coffee and the risk of crashing increases further still.
That said, not all drivers fall into the distracted driving category, but it’s important fleet managers do what they can to minimise the risk. Understanding human performance can help with this, as can amended policies to stipulate drivers must get enough sleep or pull over before making phone calls or eating food.
The roads can become safer when managers and drivers fully understand the dangers of distracted driving.
Then that just leaves the small matter of other drivers and their approach to distracted driving. Hmmm…