SmartDrive Systems is a driver safety and transportation analytics company based in the US. It uses video and driver data to monitor driver behaviour in commercial vehicles including trucks, buses and trains.
SmartDrive carried out an in-depth analysis of the impact of driver distraction on commercial fleet performance. The year-long project used in-vehicle video event data recorders to monitor at-work drivers across the globe; 14 billion miles of driving time were recorded.
The data was used to assess drivers who had experienced one or more collisions during the 12-month period and to compare their driving performance with that of professional drivers who were not involved in any collisions during the same period.
“Near-misses were used as an indicator of risky driver behaviour, as it is widely accepted that drivers involved in near-miss collisions are more likely to experience real-life collisions.”
Both groups were evaluated for any behaviour that indicated driver distraction, to determine whether distracted drivers were more likely to be involved in a crash. Near-misses were used as an indicator of risky driver behaviour, as it is widely accepted that drivers involved in near-miss collisions are more likely to experience real-life collisions.
The study found that at-work drivers that showed signs of distraction were more likely to crash than other at-work drivers. It also found that drivers involved in collisions had consistently higher rates of distraction than other drivers and made a significantly greater number of errors than non-distracted drivers. Distracted drivers typically drove up to 10mph above the legal speed limit and their gaze drifted from the road more often (91%) than the gaze of attentive drivers.
Distracted drivers were six times more likely to drive without wearing a seat belt and more than three times (36%) more likely to be involved in a near-miss; this rose to nearly nine times (88%) more likely if the driver was using a mobile phone.
Drivers distracted by mobile phones were the most dangerous drivers recorded. More than nine out of 10 drivers (94%) involved in a collision were regularly distracted by talking on a hand-held mobile device and 40% of drivers involved in a crash were regularly distracted by a hands-free phone.
The drivers that crashed were also more likely (85%) to be regularly distracted by texting/dialling on a mobile phone.
SmartDrive’s study indicated that drivers pose a risk to other road users if they choose to drive when they are distracted and that these drivers are a greater reputational risk for an organisation than other driver groups. The study concluded that fleet managers could lessen the risk by identifying drivers prone to distraction and encouraging safer driving practices, while also clearly demonstrating that distracted driving is unacceptable at any time.
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