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Cell phone use still major cause of risky driving behavior, study says

Released during the National Safety Council’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the study — which explored the distracted driving rate of commercial fleets — summarizes the 2012 performance of commercial drivers observed during a benchmark period prior to and after starting the SmartDrive Safety program.

The Trucker News Services

4/30/2013

SAN DIEGO — SmartDrive Systems, a company whose products include driving performance solutions to reduce collisions and improve fuel efficiency, said last month that the SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index study concluded that the top 5 percent of distracted drivers of commercial vehicles are distracted 79 percent of the time during a risky driving maneuver, nearly six times more often than the rest of the drivers.

Released during the National Safety Council’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the study — which explored the distracted driving rate of commercial fleets — summarizes the 2012 performance of commercial drivers observed during a benchmark period prior to and after starting the SmartDrive Safety program.  

“This study provides commercial fleets with an ongoing measurement of causes and trends in distracted driving behaviors to help improve driving performance and skills, helping drivers to be safer on the road,” Steve Mitgang, SmartDrive CEO said. “The study compiles information from the in-vehicle, video event recorders that capture video, audio and vehicle data during sudden stops, swerves, collisions and other risky driving maneuvers. These events are analyzed, categorized and scored according to 70-plus safety observations.”

The SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index study evaluated more than 15.1 million video events recorded over the course of 2012.

Through in-depth review and analysis by SmartDrive Expert Safety Analysts, SmartDrive is able to quantify distractions such as mobile phone usage — texting as well as talking — eating, drinking, doing paperwork, personal hygiene and other personal activities. The percentages reflect how often a distraction was observed when a risky driving maneuver was recorded. 

Top distracted drivers used mobile phones 29 times more than the rest.

Of the most distracted drivers observed, the study found that mobile phone usage continues to be a top distraction at 27 percent, which includes hands-free talking, handheld talking and texting.  According to the National Safety Council, 23 percent of all collisions in 2011 involved mobile phone usage, resulting in 1.3 million collisions.

In addition, object in hand, which includes manipulation of objects, searching for objects, personal grooming, and others, is also particularly risky and a more common distraction compared to the others.

The study also found that the top distracted commercial drivers were talking on mobile phones 29 times more than the rest of the drivers as well as 19 times more texting than the rest of the drivers. This shows an habitual pattern with top distracted drivers leading to risky driving behaviors.

Mobile phone usage is the single most common distraction of all drivers during speeding, at 25 percent. Object in hand, at 27 percent, shows similar behavior pattern we’ve observed with mobile phone usage — that manipulating an object while driving continues to be the biggest cause of distractions.  Interestingly, when food and beverages are combined, it represented 34 percent of the most common distractions during speeding of all drivers.

“This study showcases the cause of distracted driving which applies not only to commercial drivers but to the motoring public,” Mitgang said. “SmartDrive looks at this study as an opportunity for fleet managers and drivers alike to take note of exactly what is causing the distractions and then we help them evaluate the best steps to decrease those distractions; thereby creating a safer, and ultimately, more profitable operation.”

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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