Study: Operating handheld device leading culprit

Operating a handheld device is the leading cause of distracted driving incidents that led to collisions or near-crashes in a study released Sept. 21 by SmartDrive Systems.

By analyzing in-cab activity captured on video in the 15 seconds prior to those traffic events, SmartDrive says its safety evaluators were able to observe the most common distracted driving behaviors. Ranked behind operating a handheld device were eating/drinking/smoking and talking on a mobile phone.

The SmartDrive Distracted Driving research data is derived from the company’s database of recorded risky driving incidents, more than 34 million and counting. SmartDrive, a provider of fleet safety and operational efficiency programs, said these are actual, over-the-road events and distracted driving behaviors captured on video in the company’s safety program.

The SmartDrive study also revealed that commercial drivers with the highest number of distracted driving observations were 7.4 times more likely to be involved in a collision or near-collision when compared to drivers with the lowest number of distractions. The study group included more than 20,000 professional commercial drivers. The distraction-collision study evaluated more than 7.5 million video events recorded since Jan. 1. The collision/near-collision data comparison included drivers who had recorded at least one such incident this year.

“The findings of our recently released Distracted Driving Index and our correlation of distracted driving behaviors and collisions underscore what the U.S. Department of Transportation has been saying: If we can reduce distracted driving, we can save lives,” said Jason Palmer, SmartDrive president. “By tackling these types of distracted-driving behaviors early on, and coaching drivers to correct them before a serious event occurs, our SmartDrive Safety program is having an immediate, positive impact on highway safety.”