If your business operates a fleet of vehicles – whether it be company cars, vans or HGVs, you’ll be aware of the impact of accident claims on your commercial fleet insurance costs. Understanding the risks that distracted driving can bring to your drivers, and therefore your business is the first step in being able to control that risk.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving can be defined as inattentiveness on the road caused by an object, activity, event or person. This inattentiveness reduces awareness, decision-making and performance, increasing the likelihood of driver error, near-crashes or crashes. What’s more, distracted driving is not always attributable to a medical condition, alcohol and drug use, or fatigue.
If you think about distracted driving, the cause that comes immediately to mind is the use of mobile phones. But whilst taking calls and texting while driving are major causes of accidents, they’re not the only distractions.
Let’s take a look at distracted driving in more detail:
1. Visual distractions – quite simply, anything that diverts a driver’s eyes from the road:
- an accident or incident – think about the traffic jams that form on the opposite side of the road in the aftermath of an accident as people slow down or stop to look at what’s happened. This often causes additional accidents due to lack of attention on the road in front.
- Pedestrians/animals – whether attention is taken with people watching whilst queuing at traffic lights, people crossing the road or livestock/wildlife on the road or next to it.
- Road signs – even with satnav, we still like to back up the instructions given by taking note of good old fashioned road signs. If a driver is concentrating on reading the road signs ahead, there can be a lapse of concentration.
2. Physical distractions – anything that involves the driver taking their hands off the wheel:
- Eating, drinking or smoking – whilst it’s not illegal to snack whilst driving, the police could prosecute for careless driving if an offence occurs and the driver is deemed not to be in proper control of the vehicle due to eating or drinking. This offence carries an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points.
- Dehydration – in some cases, it can be more dangerous for a driver not to have a drink handy. Dehydration can cause a loss of concentration, lead to slower reaction times and even drowsiness. Taking a break or having a drink that’s easily available can be important, particularly in hot weather.
- Tuning the radio or adjusting the satnav clearly diverts attention – and a hand – from the steering wheel. Again, this is not illegal, but as with eating and drinking, if an incident occurs and the driver was deemed to be distracted, fines and penalty points could be imposed.
3. Cognitive distractions – thinking about something other than the road ahead:
- Taking a phone call – even with hands free kit, the diversion of attention whilst on a call could be enough to cause an incident. For this reason, many businesses adopt a policy of forbidding work calls being made to or taken by employees whilst driving.
- Multitasking – trying to map out the day/evening, taking part in a radio quiz, – or even listening to an audio book whilst driving could be deemed distracting. Whilst it’s impossible for us to stop our brains from diverting from the primary task, considering the driving environment can help.
Using a mobile phone
Individuals using a mobile phone while driving are four times as likely to be involved in a crash, according to the government.
In March 2022, the government even strengthened the law forbidding mobile device usage while driving to combat the growing issue.
Make sure your drivers have clear guidelines when it comes to mobile phone use whilst driving your fleet vehicles.
Understanding the risks to manage your fleet drivers effectively
Being aware of the risks that could impact on the safety of your drivers and vehicles is the first step in effective risk management.
Our next chapter in this series sets out the UK laws on distracted driving. Follow us on LinkedIn to keep updated.
Further instalments include tips for dealing with distracted driving issues, as tips for your drivers and a template for creating a distracted driving policy.
Talk to us to find out more about insurance and risk management for your commercial fleet.