Eliminating Visual, Physical, and Cognitive Distractions


In the first part of this series about how the commercial transportation sector operates through the pandemic and post-pandemic reality, we focused on the importance of clear, consistent, and effective communication between fleet safety managers and drivers. We continue to ask ourselves, “what is normal?” Whether we are dealing with schedule, load, or route changes, we continually ask drivers to do more and remain vigilant in every detail of their already complicated job.

According to early data by the National Safety Council, there was a 14% jump in fatality rates in March 2020, despite the significant decrease—by 18.6%—in miles driven. In April, the California Highway Patrol recorded an 87% increase in speeding tickets for drivers going 100 mph. From a global pandemic to nationwide protests, commercial drivers today face an unprecedented combination of obstacles. In response, many fleets rely on technology to ensure driver safety as they navigate these uncertain times.

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Now, more than ever, it’s imperative drivers focus on the task at hand, not giving in to any distractions in the cab, on the road, or at the point of delivery. With the number of vehicles on the road beginning to rise as states reopen, drivers should continue to be aware of surroundings at all times. It only takes a second to cause or be involved in a collision, which may result in an injury or even fatality.

Driving is a skill that requires full attention and involves constant, complex coordination between mind and body. Not all distractions are alike, nor do they impact drivers in the same way. Video event recorders are the best way to know if a driver is distracted and understand the full situation. The combination of video evidence, driver safety scores, and a driver dashboard is the best way to correct risky behavior before it leads to collision.

Types of Distractions

When reviewing and discussing video in coaching sessions with drivers, it’s important to keep in mind the three types of distractions:

  • Manual distractions—a driver moves his/her hands away from the wheel
  • Visual distractions—a driver’s focus and/or eyes are not on the road or surrounding environment
  • Cognitive distraction—a driver’s mind wanders away from the task at hand

When coaches sit down with drivers—virtually or in-person—it’s important to distinguish which type of distraction a driver exhibited and assess other factors in order to intervene and correct the behavior. Were the driver’s hands off the wheel in order to eat, tend to in-cab technology or sensors, or something else? Does the driver have a habit of moving his/her hands from the wheel while the vehicle is in motion? Does the driver often lose focus or was this a one-time event? When and where did the event happen? But most importantly, why did it happen? Getting to the root cause and truly understanding the type of distraction and reason behind it will help mitigate future occurrences.

Advanced technology offers immediate access to the data manager’s need to combat distracted driving through coaching and return home safely every night.

For more information

To gain more insights on communication and coaching, download the eBook, “Coach Your Drivers to Safety and Success,” from SmartDrive. It can help make coaching part of your safety culture, measure your coaching effectiveness, provide advanced analytics for coaching, and more. Find out more, visit

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