Personal Injury

Study identifies riskiest driving behaviors for commercial truckers

In-cab video surveillance of 34,466 commercial drivers has helped researchers at SmartDrive Systems Inc. determine the most common driver distractions linked to risky driving maneuvers. The San Diego-based company, which specializes in fleet management and driver safety solutions, evaluated more than 13.8 million video events recorded last year in a study that sought to quantify behind-the-wheel distractions, such as talking and texting on cell phones, eating, and drinking. Study researchers correlated driver distractions caught on video with sudden stops, swerves, collisions, and other events captured by “black box” type data recordings.

The nine most common distractions researchers observed in conjunction with a risky driving maneuver were:

  • Object in Hand (44.5%)
  • Talking on a Handheld Mobile Phone (13.4%)
  • Drinking a beverage (12.7%)
  • Eating (10.1%)
  • Smoking (9.9%)
  • Operating a Handheld Device (9.1%)
  • Talking / Listening on hands-free mobile phone (5.2%)
  • Consulting manifest, map, or Navigation (1.0%)
  • Grooming / Personal Hygiene (0.6%)

The study also found that of the 34,466 drivers, just 5 percent were the most distracted behind the wheel and more likely to engage in dangerous driving behaviors. Those 5 percent of drivers were distracted 67 percent of the time that risky driving maneuvers were observed – a rate of almost six times more than the other 95 percent of the drivers.

SmartDrive president Jason Palmer told Fleet Owner that study researchers “recorded one driver whose texting and constant cell phone use while driving led to a high incident of hard braking and hard turning maneuvers.” Yet the same driver “also maintained the best on-time and delivery statistics within his fleet.”

“The important take-away from this report,” Mr. Palmer added, “is that throughout 2010, we continued to see a strong connection between these driving distractions and fundamental driving errors that can lead to collisions. Early identification of this 5 percent group is extremely important because the sooner they know who they are, the sooner fleets can begin training to change risky-driving behaviors in this higher-risk group.”