Distracted Driving Up 9% in Second Quarter Among New Commercial Drivers, According to the Latest SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index

Study Tracks More Than 21,000 Commercial Drivers and More Than 3.5 Million Video Events; Drowsiness and Running Stoplights/Stop Signs Top the List of Potential Factors in Near Collisions

Aug 19, 2010, 06:00 ET from SmartDrive Systems

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 19 /PRNewswire/ -- SmartDrive Systems, a leader in fleet safety and operational efficiency, today released its latest SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index, a quarterly benchmark of commercial fleet driving distraction rates. SmartDrive will also be providing its findings at the U.S. Dept. of Transportation's 2010 Distracted Driving Summit, scheduled for Sept. 21, 2010, in Washington, D.C.

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The Index summarizes the quarterly performance results of the SmartDrive Safety program.  For the quarter ending June 30, 2010, the incidence of distracted driving among new drivers in the program was 11.8%, a 9% increase in the distraction rate reported in Q1 2010.

The SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index (SDDI) provides fleet safety professionals with an ongoing measurement of causes and trends in distracted driving behaviors to help them put safer drivers on the road. The SDDI data is derived from the SmartDrive Safety program, which uses in-vehicle recorders to capture video, audio and vehicle data during sudden stops, swerves, collisions and other events. Event data is categorized and scored according to 50+ safety observations. The SDDI data compares drivers in their first three weeks on the SmartDrive Safety program with drivers who have benefited from more time in the program.

The study evaluated more than 3.51 million video events recorded in April, May and June 2010, involving 21,456 commercial drivers. Through detailed video analysis, SmartDrive is able to quantify distractions such as cell phone usage, text messaging, use of maps or navigation, eating/drinking/smoking, and other actions.

Distracted Driving Index Highlights

For Q2, 2010, the SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index shows that:

  • Overall Distraction Rate for New Drivers was 11.8% in Q2 2010, up from almost 10.8% in Q1 2010;
  • The five most common distractions, and their changes from Q1, were:
    • Object in Hand = 3.9%, down 11%
    • Handheld Mobile Phone = 1.9%, up 27%
    • Beverage = 1.6%, up 7%
    • Smoking = 1.3%, up 30%
    • Operating Handheld Device = 1.1%, up 38%

The distracted driving rate across long-term drivers in the SmartDrive Safety program in the latest SDDI was just 5.9%, 50% lower than the rate for drivers new to the program in Q2 2010,  evidence that companies are effectively working with drivers to reduce driving distractions.

The 5% Factor

The SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index points to a trend across all companies:  Among the 5% of new drivers with the most distractions, a distraction was observed 70% of the time when a risky driving event was recorded. This 5% of new drivers group accounted for 33% of all recorded distracted driving incidents, while 10% of the new drivers accounted for more than 56% of all risky driving events during Q2.

"The SmartDrive Safety program helps identify these behaviors early on, so drivers can be coached to correct these behaviors, before a serious event occurs.  Early identification and training can have an immediate impact on a participating company's bottom line," Jason Palmer said.

Two distractions in particular continue to plague some new drivers -- operating a handheld device and using a handheld mobile phone. In both instances just 5% of the new drivers in Q2 2010 accounted for the majority of events involving those devices -- 57% of all mobile phone incidents captured and 47% of all operating-handheld-device incidents -- highlighting the importance of catching these behaviors and working with drivers to correct them.  Seventy-six percent of the drivers in the SmartDrive Safety program never had an incident involving either a mobile phone or a handheld device.

Study Highlights Behaviors Most Commonly Observed in Near-Collision Events

This quarter, the Distracted Driving Index report was expanded to include an analysis of near-collisions by all drivers, and the behaviors that led up to those events. By analyzing in-cab activity captured on video in the 15 seconds prior to those events, evaluators were able to observe several behaviors associated with the near-collisions.  The four most common behaviors observed in near-collision events in Q2 were drowsiness/falling asleep, running through a stoplight or stop sign, engaging in a lane change (merging or passing) and following at an unsafe distance.

Drowsiness was 23.2 times more likely to occur in near-collision events than in events which were not categorized as near collisions; and running stoplights or stop signs was 13.3 times more likely.  These observed behaviors may well be contributing factors to near-collision events, and as such, represent areas on which companies may wish to focus more attention and training, Palmer explained.

"The SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index is a valuable tool in understanding the causes of and trends in commercial driving distraction. It's based on the world's largest and fastest-growing database of captured distracted driving behaviors -- more than 33 million of them.  We are mining this vast storehouse of information to help fleets improve safety and efficiency, reduce distracted driving incidents and save lives," he added.

The next update to the Index will be published in early Q4 2010.

About SmartDrive Systems

SmartDrive delivers innovative solutions that make it easy for fleet managers to improve driver safety and reduce operating cost. SmartDrive records comprehensive video-based data from the road, then thoroughly reviews and scores critical events and recommends action for fleet managers to quickly respond and deliver sustainable savings -- all through an easy-to-use managed service. The company has compiled the world's largest storehouse -- more than 33 million events -- of real-time, risky driving incidents. SmartDrive Systems is based in San Diego, CA, and employs approximately 300 people worldwide. For more information, please visit www.smartdrive.net.

SOURCE SmartDrive Systems