Study: Most distracted drivers texting

Fleet managers are always looking for new ways to enhance safety. From implementing maximum speed policies to employing routing software to keep employees from getting directions on their phones, transportation companies are seeking to limit collisions whenever possible.

Many fleets have prohibited drivers from taking calls or text messaging when they're behind the wheel. This ban isn't unusual - several states have also made it against the law for a driver to use a cellphone while on the road. Despite these policies, drivers are still routinely distracted by their phones, and they may experience accidents as a result.

Report reveals significant problem
A new study completed by the University of Washington (UW) indicates distracted driving is a serious issue, and cellphones play a key role in keeping drivers from giving their full attention to the road.

Researchers from the university observed the behaviors of drivers across multiple counties and recorded the number of people engaged in activities that could be considered distracting to drivers. The most commonly cited distraction was mobile phones. More than 3 percent of drivers distracted by a phone were talking on a handheld device, while about half were text messaging.

"These findings suggest that distracted driving is more common than we thought and that texting has become a major cause of distraction," said Dr. Beth Ebel, principal investigator with UW Medicine's Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and UW associate professor of pediatrics. "Most people support laws restricting texting and cellphone use in vehicles, yet some choose to engage in behaviors that put everyone on the road at risk."

The numbers reveal the problem of distracted driving may have been vastly underreported until now. Few drivers will admit they were texting while operating a vehicle after a collision, especially if the area they are passing through imposes a fine on people who use mobile devices while driving. Drivers caught sending text messages in Washington, for instance, can face a fine of $124.

The revelations from the study could potentially lead more states to consider legislation that punishes people who text while driving. To ensure their drivers are compliant with any new rules, transportation companies may look to implement punishments for those caught on the phone behind the wheel and invest in logistic software that will prevent drivers from glancing at directions on their mobile devices.