All but 7% of commercial drivers consider reading text messages behind the wheel to be a form of distracted driving, but almost half of those drivers say they do it anyway, according to a study commissioned by UFG Insurance.
The new research, part of UFG Insurance’s “Worth it” safety and awareness campaign, uncovers some troubling trends among the general motoring public, but the study’s findings among the commercial driving focus group may be the most alarming.
According to the study, attitudes about distracted driving don’t always line up with actual behavior.
For instance, when asked whether reading a text message behind the wheel should be considered a form of distracted driving, 93% of commercial drivers replied “yes.” When asked if they have read text messages while driving a commercial vehicle, those drivers also said “yes.”
Nearly three-quarters of all commercial drivers of commercial drivers surveyed acknowledged that their distracted driving could lead to a traffic accident. Still, 39% of commercial drivers said they have sent text messages while driving and 47% said that they have read text messages behind the wheel.
Most commercial drivers said they talk on the phone while driving, indicating that they may consider it a less risky form of distraction than texting. According to the UFG study, six in 10 drivers said they talk on a handheld phone while driving.
Moreover, UFG says that employers themselves may be contributing to the problem of distracted driving in some cases. Nearly 40% of commercial drivers say their companies expect them to take business calls while they are behind the wheel.
Nearly all commercial drivers (nine out of 10) said they have engaged in other forms of distracted driving, including changing the radio station, adjusting remote controls, and talking to another passenger.
“Auto claims have been climbing in the industry,” said Lisa Kirchhoff, UFG’s senior writer for its distracted driving campaign, according to Business Insurance Magazine. “People are crashing more than they have in nearly a decade and industry research is laying some of the blame on distracted driving.”
There is an upside. The report found that commercial drivers are slightly more likely than non-commercial drivers to consider some activities, such as talking to a passenger in the vehicle and changing radio stations, to be forms of distracted driving. Because commercial drivers spend long hours on the road and clock more driving time than general drivers, it could be that they are more likely to have experienced the consequences of distracted driving in the past.
The study also found that commercial drivers are four times more likely than general drivers to use a smartphone app designed to prevent distracted driving.