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Distracted driving in the U.S. has reached epic proportions. While this number is expected to be severely underreported, the National Safety Council estimates that cellphone use is the cause of at least 28 percent of all traffic crashes.

Checking social media, reading and writing texts, reading emails—these all take drivers’ eyes off the road and endanger others in the process. Behind-the-wheel phone use is one of the most dangerous distracted driving activities. In the five seconds it takes a driver to read a text message travelling at 55 mph, the vehicle will travel the length of a football field. Consider how a driver’s surroundings can change in that amount of time. What’s worse is that despite 81 percent of drivers saying that texting and emailing while driving is a very serious threat to safety, 42 percent admit to reading and 30 percent to typing a message in the last 30 days.

What’s causing the gap between belief and action?

Tech companies are betting with accountability. Many believe that the same device that causes so much distraction can also be a part of the solution.

Most smartphones manufactured in the last five years are equipped with powerful sensors like gyroscopes, accelerometers and GPS triangulation technology that with the right instruction from a mobile app can detect when and where risky driving behavior occurs. This can determine how fast a driver is moving, how often they are using their phone and detect accidents.

Collecting data is just the first part of the equation. Tech companies in the GPS tracking space are aiming to make a meaningful impact on safety through driver coaching and accountability. For fleets with a cell phone policy as part of their safety program, ensuring compliance is imperative. While solutions vary based on the provider, they all present detailed data to the driver and his manager about driving habits including where, when and how long a driver used a phone on the road. Tracking cell phone use opposed to relying on the honor system creates accountability for drivers.

Creating Meaningful Behavior Change

Most solutions go beyond tracking driving habits and also seek to inspire positive behavior change through driver engagement. Data can be used to score and rank drivers and present personalized driving tips based on performance. In some cases, drivers can even receive timely alerts to help course correct when they engage in phone usage. Everything is geared toward showing drivers how they can improve and do their part to increase fleet safety.

For fleets looking to create measurable improvement to driving safety, smartphone-based driver tracking technology tends to be a more affordable option since there’s no hardware to purchase or install. Many only require downloading a mobile app to get started.

If driver monitoring is a part of a fleet safety program, smartphone-based GPS tracking for drivers is worth a hard look.

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