Distracted Driving Facts: Common Causes and Solutions

Article Published by Geotab
Author: Todd Palumbo, Marketplace Business Development Manager

Distracted Driving is plaguing our fleets and fleet owners are looking for answers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted drivers killed 3,477 people and injured 391,000 in 2015 alone. Distracted driving has become less of a problem and more of an epidemic. We’ve compiled these distracted driving facts to help spread awareness.         

What Is Considered Distracted Driving?

Distraction can be caused by a number of different sources, above and beyond mobile phones.

You are a distracted driver if you do any of the following while driving:

  • Eat or drink
  • Have a conversation with people in your car or on the phone (even hands-free)
  • Text
  • Play with the radio or navigation system
  • Look at an accident while driving past
  • Reach for something on the floor
  • Look at maps or read directions

Any activity that takes your attention away from driving, even for a second, is considered distracted driving. Even changing the radio station or quickly checking a map can be dangerous, since it takes your eyes and attention off the road. If you think you’re a fast texter, keep in mind that just sending a text takes your eyes off the road for a full five seconds.

Any activity that takes your attention away from driving, even for a second, is considered distracted driving.

There are different types of distracted driving:

  1. Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel. The European Commission states that a driver’s hands should be ready to “steer and change gear at all times.”
  2. Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
  3. Cognitive/Mental: Thinking about something else while driving
  4. Auditory: Being distracted by noise from a ringing phone or conversation (mobile or in-person)

Distracted Driving Regulations Around the World

Here is a quick comparison of some distracted driving regulations around the world.

Region Law Penalties
Berlin It is illegal to use a hand-held phone in the European Union (EU). Some EU countries also ban use of a hands-free device. €100 fine or €200 plus a one month driving ban if the use of a phone while driving causes an accident.
London In the United Kingdom (UK), it is illegal to just hold a phone or navigation device while you are driving. Hands-free use of mobile devices is permitted, although it must not block your view of traffic. From £200 plus 6 points off your driver’s license up to being banned from driving or a £2,500 fine for bus and truck drivers.
Los Angeles The state of California prohibits the use of cell phones or electronic wireless devices by drivers unless it is a emergency or related to work. Drivers under 18 are not allowed to use any cell phone or wireless devices, regardless if it’s hand-held or hands-free. $161 ticket for texting and driving.
New York City It is prohibited to drive with a portable electronic device in New York State. This includes talking, viewing, taking photos, playing games, browsing, sending emails, or text messages on a hand-held mobile device. One exception of this law is using a vehicle attached GPS device. Violation of this law equates to 5 driver violation points and a maximum fine of $200 for a first time offence.
Buenos Aires Legislation was passed in Buenos Aires, Argentina that prohibits the use of a hand-held phone to write or read texts while driving. The minimum penalty is $50 and can go upwards to an amount of $500. This also includes a 5 point charge to the driver’s license.
Manila In the Philippines, it is illegal to take a call, read or send text messages, play games, watch movies, read e-books, and browse the internet while driving. Motorists who violate this law are subject to a maximum fine of ₱15,000 and a 3 month driver’s license suspension.
Sydney Drivers cannot text, email, use social media, take photos, video message or hold the phone in New South Wales, Australia. Use of a mobile phone is allowed if it is in complete hands-free mode, not blocking the driver’s view, or the vehicle is parked. 4 demerit points for illegal use of a mobile phone. Double demerit points are in effect during certain holidays to reinforce safe driving.
Toronto In the province of Ontario, it is against the law to use hand-held communication and electronic devices while driving (e.g. mobile phone, iPod, laptop, etc). It is also illegal to view display screens unrelated to your driving. The only exemption to this law is using your phone to call 911 in an emergency. Distracted drivers in Ontario face a fine of at least $400 and three demerit points if they are convicted.


Distracted Driving Facts and Statistics

The statistics associated with distracted driving are shocking, but apparently not shocking enough to convince drivers to put their phones down.

  • Your risk of collision is 23 times higher when texting and driving, particularly for drivers of heavy vehicles and trucks, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
  • The amount of time your eyes are off the road increases by 400% when you text and drive.
  • When you send or read a text, you take your eyes off the road for approximately five seconds.
  • The average speed in the U.S. is 55 mph (88.5 km/h),  which means taking your eyes off the road for five seconds is equivalent to driving with your eyes closed for the entire length of a football field.
  • Dialing, talking or reaching for your cell phone increases your risk of crashing, and for drivers of heavy vehicles or trucks, that risk can be doubled or tripled.
  • The NHTSA estimates that 660,000 drivers are using electronic devices while driving during daytime hours.
  • At least 1.6 million collisions occur each year because of people using their cell phones while driving, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).
  • According to the Government of Ontario, one person is injured in a distracted driving related incident every half hour.

Ready to put that phone away now?

Texting and Driving

Texting and driving is dangerous and yet so prevalent. Almost half of young drivers reported texting or emailing while driving in the last 30 days, as found by a 2013 study published in Pediatrics. The European Transport Safety Council cites two recent studiesthat found 36% of drivers in the Czech Republic said they used their phone “almost every time they get behind the wheel” and 25% of drivers in Spain admit to using their phone while driving.

Almost half of young drivers reported texting or emailing while driving in the last 30 days, as found by a 2013 study published in Pediatrics.

Legislators in California are seeking to increase the penalty for distracted driving with Senate Bill 1030, so that drivers charged would receive a violation point against their driving record. The government of Northern Ireland is planning to triple the penalty for distracted driving to match the £200 fine in the England, Scotland, and Wales.

A poll conducted by the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) in November 2017 found that more than 80% of the country’s population believes texting and driving is more problematic than it was three years ago, despite the increase in public education and regulations. With 96% of respondents claiming texting and driving is a threat to their safety on the road, the poll found that this concern is now tied with drunk driving as the number one road safety concern amongst Canadians.

In 2014, Geotab wrote an article on the prevalence of distracted driving. Click here to see how much has changed in just four years, since smartphones became omnipresent.  

Employer Liability

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), an employer may be held legally accountable for the actions of a negligent employee if the employee is on the clock and working within the scope of their job duties at the time of a collision. This is called vicarious responsibility, a term all fleet owners should be familiar with. Not to mention, the costs of these accidents are astounding. The average per vehicle cost of collisions annually is $4,000 to $8,000 to fleets. Imagine how these figures would impact your bottom line as a business owner.

No longer is it acceptable for a cell phone to be used for anything other than navigation in the cab. The risks and repercussions are much too severe.

See Also: Duty of Care for Fleet Managers

Distracted Driving Awareness Campaigns and Education

Numerous campaigns and educational programs are in place to help combat the rise of distracted driving. These initiatives bring awareness to the problem, present facts and resources, and often provide a network of people to share stories with and bring collective change. The Save a Life Tour travels to schools to provide drunk driving, and texting and driving simulations. Students are able to experience first-hand how debilitating these factors can be on your ability to drive safely.

Distracted Driving Campaigns to Follow:

Distracted Driving Awareness Month
The NSC participates in Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April to motivate people to rally together and recognize the risks associated with distracted driving to eliminate preventable deaths. Workplaces are encouraged to share resources with staff to highlight the dangerous and life-threatening outcomes of distracted driving. The campaign can be followed on Twitter using the #JustDrive hashtag.

Decide to Drive
Decide to Drive is a campaign started by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and The Auto Alliance. The campaign website is designed for drivers to access tools and tips for staying safe behind the wheel. Alarming statistics and facts are available to dissuade drivers from dangerous driving and resources are in place to encourage people to talk about the problem and report unsafe driving behaviour.  

It Can Wait
Mobility provider AT&T began a movement called It Can Wait. On the website, people can take the pledge to never drive distracted again. Pledgers can photograph themselves with the words “it can wait” written on their hand to symbolize their commitment to the movement. To date, more than 23 million people have made the pledge to end distracted driving.

Distracted Driving Kills
With distracted driving being the second-leading cause of motor vehicle fatalities in British Columbia, the BC Coalition to End Distracted Driving launched an initiative called Distracted Driving Kills to create awareness about the severity of distracted driving in the province. People are able to share stories about the horrific impact distracted driving has and the devastating realities people face because of it.

With so many youth opting to text and drive, there is a need to implement educational programs to dissuade students from driving distractedly.

Some fleet owners have implemented their own distracted driving programs, however this depends upon driver compliance. Early programs have relied upon agreements and written policies to guard against the use of cell phones in the vehicle. Technology can support companies in their effort to reduce distracted driving.

Distracted Driving Technology Solutions

Tools to help curb the cell phone urges are wide ranging. Some tools can completely eliminate the use of a cell phone in cab.

Lock Box
Fleet Guardian (coming soon to the Geotab Marketplace) allows drivers to put their cell phones in a box which locks while driving. This ensures a safe and distraction free trip. Other devices allow company phones to be registered to a device in the vehicle which limits its use to navigational function only during driving times.

Cameras are becoming more and more useful in curbing distracted driving. If the vehicle has an in-cab facing camera, fleet managers can review video footage and perform random audits to ensure their drivers are following procedure. These tactics, coupled with Geotab telematics, allows fleet managers to quickly alert drivers against the same event in the video to identify exactly what was happening at a specific moment.

Another option new to the market is the use of inward facing cameras to identify driver distraction. Advances in technology, specifically artificial intelligence and machine learning, have allowed for the creation of a driver safety platform that not only recognizes driver distraction, but uses audible in-cab alerts to prevent the distraction. Nauto II is a proactive safety tool that is able to stop distractions before they become dangerous while positively altering the behaviour of fleet drivers over time.

Advanced Eye and Face Tracking Software
Guardian by Seeing Machines is designed to guard against fatigue and distraction while driving. Using vision technology, the device provides real-time in-cab audio and vibration alerts to notify drivers if fatigue is setting in. Through Guardian, drivers have access to live-support at all times while on the road. Drivers who use Guardian can reduce fatigue and distraction related events by up to 90%.

Read more about fleet safety management here.


When your focus leaves the road, things happen quickly. Distracted driving has devastating and irreversible consequences. While help is available to assist in fighting the problem , nothing is going to make an impact unless we are able to alter the behaviour of drivers and create a safe experience by getting ahead of incidents far before they take impact themselves.

It is up to drivers to pledge to end distracted driving and incorporate strategies into their daily lives to combat the issue. The more people who commit to distraction-free driving, the more likely that higher expectations, and a precedent, will be set for others to follow.

The bottom line is — you cannot drive safely unless 100% of your attention is on driving.


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