Types of Driver Distractions and What Fleets Can Do About Them

The average human attention span while driving is found to be around 20 minutes!

Image shows multiple distraction types

The average human attention span while driving is found to be around 20 minutes! What happens when their attention runs out? They seek distractions. This is a troubling thought when you realize an average trucker drives for around 10 hours a day without any driver distraction.

These statistics turn from “facts to know” to “facts to be scared of” considering how driver distractions contribute to accidents. According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving accounted for 3,142 fatalities in 2019. Furthermore, they cause around 280,000 injuries per year and a total of 920,000 accidents per year. This is certainly an issue that has caught the attention of the government and enterprises alike. However, before understanding what can be done to curb them, let's understand how they happen.

What is driver distraction?

Any act that divides the attention of the driver from driving - wherein their complete focus is not on driving alone can be termed as a driver distraction. The scale of the distraction varies depending on the activity that is distracting them from driving. However, it can be a distraction of just a few seconds that costs them losses in terms of finance, reputation, and, unfortunately, sometimes, life.

These are usually harmless activities from the perspective of the driver. They believe they are driving just alright and that they are in control of the vehicle despite indulging in a distracting activity. Whether the driver is in a commercial or private vehicle, everyone is distracted on their journey more often than not. This solely occurs because of how easily woven these distractions are into one's daily activities

Let's consider the typical day of a trucker, Harry.

Harry prides himself on being a good driver. He has a good track record, has had no accidents so far, follows through with the schedule every time, and is a model driver.

He starts his day for the 5-hour journey. He sets the GPS to his desired location after he leaves his location. On the way, he wants to listen to some music and browses the radio stations for the right track. Once he finds it, he turns his attention back to driving again. He notices he is a little thirsty after half-hour of the journey. He picks up the water bottle next to him, one hand on the wheel, another on the bottle, and he continues his journey.

He remembered it was a friend's birthday as he glanced at his phone for a quick time check. He casually decides to drop in a message. Now, an hour into the journey, he is a little bored again and decides to switch up the radio station again. He hears some news on the radio about an accident on another highway that has caused a huge pile-up. While he is driving, he is also thinking about this news. Four hours into the journey, he only stopped once for a quick lunch. On his way now, he is a little drowsy, and the weather seemed pleasant enough with the right amount of cool breeze. As he enjoys this mellow mood, he is barely able to keep his eyes open at this point and almost rear-ends a car in front that braked all of a sudden. He is furious at the car driver for this, but whose fault is it?

Our friend Harry here went about his day with no activity out of the ordinary. Yet, with the perspective of driving, how normal was it?


There are three types of driver distractions, and Harry engaged in all of them!

-Visual distraction comprises activities that take make you look away from the road while driving. Be it looking at your GPS during the journey, looking at the radio to see which station is on, or checking the time on your phone. 

-Manual distraction comprises activities that take your hand away from the wheel. Be it texting, talking on the phone, setting the GPS while you are driving, eating, changing the radio station, or even smoking as you drive. 

-Cognitive distraction comprises activities that take your focus away from driving. Whether it's a stressful event that's on your mind, having a long conversation, reading a text and thinking about it, drowsiness, driving under the influence, or even talking to someone next to you.

While these are the primary types of distractions, there is one seemingly harmless that causes a lot of damage - texting! Using your phone and wishing that friend for her birthday could’ve even been fatal for Harry. It takes your hands away from the wheel, your mind off driving, and your eyes off the road—the trifecta of trouble.


Consequences of driver distractions

Driver distractions are among the leading causes of accidents around the globe, and we discussed the statistics around them as well. However, there are several other ramifications.

Driver distraction costs fleets in terms of monetary losses and insurmountable reputational damage. Non-fatal damages cost fleets an average of $100,310! Not to negate the emotional damage that was caused to the driver as a result of the accident as well.

In today's time, distraction accidents also lead to nuclear verdicts for employers as they are considered responsible for the driver’s actions too. According to a report, in the trucking industry, verdicts have taken a steep rise from $2.3 million in 2010 to $22.3 million in 2018!

Most driver distractions are also against the law. Using your phone while driving is illegal in several countries and can amount to a lot of fines as well. The expense of traffic violations due to lack of attentive driving can seem like insignificant costs, but they can quickly pile up and worse, result in a very bad outcome.

All of this only means fleets have to be more vigilant in tackling driver distraction. They cannot look at it as an afterthought of insurance and negotiations, but rather fix it at the root cause.

Solving driver distractions with video telematics

Video telematics is a great tool for fleets. From providing context to accidents and helping with exoneration to coaching drivers with their driving habits, it can do it all.

Video telematics can provide the fleet with insights into the driver’s habits. The Driver Monitoring Systems (DMS) have a camera that is placed looking inwards, focusing on the driver, and can monitor the driver for eyes off the road, drowsiness, using a mobile device, lack of attentiveness, and so on. With the help of advancements in this technology and AI, real-time notifications can now be provided, which can provide a timely alert to the driver in real-time and avert a bad outcome.

In addition to a real-time notification, the video telematics system automatically crops out a short event video of 10–20 seconds around the moment of risky driving. The fleet manager is provided with a collective report of such incidents, including the event videos, and can then engage with the driver and help them adopt safe driving practices without distractions.

AI on the road-facing camera can help avert bad outcomes due to distraction as well—e.g., when a driver is tailgating, if there is a moment of distraction, the distance between the two vehicles may have come down to a dangerously low level, increasing the risk greatly. In addition to AI on the driver-facing camera monitoring for distraction, the AI on the road facing camera can also provide a notification to alert the driver. These are referred to as compound events – where there is a risk observed by analyzing video from both cameras. Having context from the -a road-facing camera helps make monitor distraction better and more accurate – since eyes off the road with a vehicle ahead or an approaching stop sign or a crossing where a pedestrian is on the road is significantly more dangerous.

LightMetrics video telematics has AI on the edge for both road and driver-facing cameras, allowing distraction to be evaluated more holistically, making the alerts more accurate and reliable. The system can identify the drivers who need to be coached for distracted driving and provide event videos of specific drivers indulging in distracted driving. This saves time for the fleet manager while making them incredibly effective toward making the fleet safer.

Driver distraction has been a known problem. While educating drivers about the risks and consequences is essential, enabling them to be better drivers with the right technology is crucial too. Video telematics with AI on the edge can transform how driver coaching can be transformed. At the end of the day, this important investment can help fleets save costs, reputation, and, most importantly, lives.

Reach out to info@lightmetrics.co to find out more and follow us on LinkedIn for the latest updates on Video Telematics.