When determining the risk that phone distraction presents to your fleet, it is best to reference more than one source.

Researching the Risk

CEI used the accident data of nearly one million vehicles combined with crash-related data from government and industry resources to calculate this risk.  We found that one of the most cited sources, the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was an outlier from other data sources.

Reports published by the NHTSA on distracted driving report that phone distraction is a minor issue, showing between 0.89% and 1.25% of accidents involve phone distractions.  However, the National Safety Council (NSC)’s study of crashes reported to NHTSA found that phone distraction was involved in nearly 25% of all crashes.

Understanding the Findings

Why such a difference between these two very reputable sources?  As always, the truth lies in the details.  The NSC’s study found that cell phone involvement in crashes may be unreported to NHTSA.  They found it stemmed from how NHTSA data is collected.  This included:

  • Police often rely on drivers admitting to using their cell phone.
  • Cell phone use may not be investigated when a more obvious cause for the crash exists, such as speeding.
  • When states report accidents to NHTSA, they may not code cell phone use consistently, which prevents data collection.
  • When a post-crash investigation does uncover cell phone use, the data previously reported to NHTSA is not always updated.

Third Party Verification of Risk

An accurate source of data on the subject comes from Cambridge Mobile Telematics (CMT), the leading provider of mobile telematics.  CMT’s platform records driver behaviors during trips and major insurance carriers use CMT’s data to calculate premium rates.

Based on data from billions of recorded miles, CMT found phone use was involved in 19% of crashes.  This is much closer to the results in the NSC’s study than the NHTSA reported numbers.

Calculating Your Risk

The cost of phone distraction for your fleet now becomes a simple math calculation.  The risk to your fleet is significant if phone distraction impacts 20% of your loss experience.

Based on cost estimates from the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), CEI calculates that phone distraction costs fleets between $45 to $125 per driver per month, depending on loss ratios.

Time To Take Action

There are steps fleets can take beyond setting a zero-tolerance policy for phone distractions.  CEI’s own data shows that not all drivers adhere to those policies, and fleets are then blind to this risk.  Policies are not enough.

Fortunately, there are tools that can monitor cell phone use compliance, and help drivers become aware of their own behaviors.  Drivers have an opportunity to can self-correct before serious enforcement actions are taken.


We invite you to contact CEI to learn more about tools that address phone distractions, and drive risk out of your fleet.

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