SmartDrive Systems has released its latest SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index, a quarterly benchmark of commercial fleet driving distraction rates.

The results for the quarter ending March 31, 2010, show that the incidence of distracted driving among new drivers in the SmartDrive Safety program was 10.8%, a 32% decline from the 15.8% reported in Q4 2009. Commercial drivers with more time in the SmartDrive Safety program reduced their distraction rate to 6.2%.

The SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index (SDDI) provides fleet safety professionals with an ongoing measurement of causes and trends in distracted driving behaviors to help them put safer drivers on the road. The SDDI data is derived from the SmartDrive Safety program, which uses in-vehicle recorders to capture video, audio and vehicle data during sudden stops, swerves, collisions, and other events. Event data is categorized and scored according to a 55-point safety scale. The SDDI data compares drivers in their first two weeks on the SmartDrive Safety program with drivers who have benefited from three or more weeks in the program.

The study evaluated more than three million video events recorded in January, February, and March 2010 across 20,256 commercial drivers. Through detailed analysis, SmartDrive is able to quantify distractions such as cell phone usage, text messaging, use of maps or navigation, eating/drinking/smoking, or any other distraction resulting in drivers taking their eyes off the road.

For Q1, the SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index shows:

  • Overall Distraction Rate for New Drivers was 10.8% in Q1 2010, indicating that new drivers were distracted nearly 11% of the time while driving. That's down from almost 16% in Q4 2009.

  • The performance was driven by changes from Q4 in these areas:

    • Object in hand = 4.4%, down 13%
    • Handheld mobile phone = 1.5%, down 48%
    • Beverage = 1.5%, down 12%
    • Food = 1.1%, down 21%
    • Smoking = 1%, down 60%
    • Operating handheld device = 0.5%, down 58%

The distracted driving rate across long-term drivers in the SmartDrive Safety program in the latest SDDI was nearly 43% lower than the rate for drivers new to the program in Q1 2010, evidence that fleets who focus on working with their drivers can successfully manage these distractions.

Two distractions in particular — operating a handheld device and using a handheld mobile phone — reveal this concentration in a low population of drivers. 84% of the drivers in the SmartDrive Safety program never had an incident involving either a mobile phone or a handheld device. However, in both instances just 5% of the drivers accounted for the majority of events involving those devices — 67% of all mobile phone incidents captured and 59% of all operating-handheld-device incidents.