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Study: Distracted driving spikes during Thanksgiving travels

Nov. 22, 2023
A new study shows that passenger car distracted driving peaks on Thanksgiving, giving fleets and truck drivers working over the holiday one more thing to watch out for.

Any holiday can be a logistical nightmare for the average American family, but Thanksgiving brings more challenges to the commercial vehicle industry as distracted driving increases. 

According to a study by Cambridge Mobile Telematics, a telematics service provider that measures road risks, distracted driving skyrockets around the holiday season. The study found that drivers spend an average of two minutes and 13 seconds on their phones while driving on Thanksgiving Day, which is a 9.2% increase. Two weeks before and after the holiday, the average for distracted driving is two minutes and two seconds. 

This average time has steadily increased over the past four years; in 2020, the average was two minutes and four seconds of distracted driving per hour on Thanksgiving. In 2021, this average increased to two minutes and 18 seconds. An increase was again seen in 2022, with an average of two minutes and 24 seconds. Thanksgiving is a hot spot for distracted driving, but why?

What’s distracting travelers and truck drivers this holiday?

Matt Fiorentino, VP of marketing at CMT, said communication is the biggest reason for this spike in distracted driving around Thanksgiving. 

“Thanksgiving is a huge holiday in the U.S.—people coming together for a really big dinner, watching football, just spending time with loved ones,” Fiorentino said. “And when you’re coordinating across a lot of different people, there’s just more communication, and unfortunately some of that conversation spills over into while people are driving.” 

While professional truck drivers could have more distracted drivers to deal with on the road this season, they aren’t immune to distraction either, according to Corey Woinarowicz, chief revenue officer of NoCell Technologies, a software company that helps drivers stay focused on the road. 

“It’s also an issue for over-the-road truckers that aren’t going somewhere for Thanksgiving,” Woinarowicz said. “They’re hauling freight, they get lonely, and they start making phone calls.”

Road safety is always an issue for truck drivers, but it could be even more so this Thanksgiving. Motor club AAA predicts 55.4 million Americans will travel this year over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a 2.3% increase over last year and the third busiest forecast since AAA began tracking holiday travel in 2000.

See also: 4 steps to incentivize safe driving

How can fleets prioritize safety?

How can drivers protect themselves when it comes to distracted driving this season? 

“Just prepare everything before you start driving,” Fiorentino said. “If you’re punching an address into the maps app, do that before you start driving. Pick out your playlists before you start driving. Use the technology that you have in your vehicle today, whether it’s Bluetooth or Apple Carplay, that can help dramatically reduce distracted driving.” 

For truck drivers specifically, it’s essential to not only be aware of other drivers on the road but also to be aware they are more likely to be distracted drivers. According to CMT, truck drivers are at higher risk this Thanksgiving season due to increased time on the roads. It’s important for drivers to know there will be more problems with distracted driving during this time so they can be extra vigilant. 

But it’s also important for fleet management to support their drivers in staying focused this holiday season. When needing to communicate with drivers, CMT’s Woinarowicz encourages fleet managers never to text. Instead, staff should call drivers and ask them to pull over before sharing necessary information. 

“Fleet managers can train their staff, and they can instill in the drivers that nothing is more important than them getting home safely,” Woinarowicz said. “Everything else will wait.”

About the Author

Jenna Hume | Digital Editor

Digital Editor Jenna Hume previously worked as a writer in the gaming industry. She has a bachelor of fine arts degree in creative writing from Truman State University and a master of fine arts degree in writing from Lindenwood University. She is currently based in Missouri. 

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