When SmartDrive Systems looked at the most common activities going on in the cab before a crash, they found that operating a handheld device (i.e. texting on a phone or operating a GPS) was the most common. Eating/drinking/smoking came in second, and talking on a mobile phone came in third.

SmartDrive Systems announced the results of its study this week during the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2010 Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C.

The SmartDrive Distracted Driving research data is derived from what it says is the world’s largest database of recorded risky driving incidents (more than 34 million). These are actual, on-the-road events and distracted driving behaviours captured on video by the SmartDrive Safety program. The study group included more than 20,000 professional commercial drivers.

The study includes an analysis of collisions and near-collisions, and the behaviours leading up to those events. By analysing in-cab activity captured on video in the 15 seconds prior to those events, SmartDrive safety evaluators were able to observe the most common distracted driving behaviours.

In addition, the SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index for the second quarter showed that just 5 percent of new drivers in the SmartDrive Safety program accounted for 33 percent of all recorded distracted driving incidents, and that they were responsible for 57 percent of all mobile phone incidents captured and 47 percent of all operating-handheld-device incidents.

The SmartDrive study also revealed that commercial drivers with the highest number of distracted driving observations were 7.4 times more likely to be involved in a collision or near collision when compared to drivers with the lowest number of distractions.

The distraction-collision study evaluated more than 7.5 million video events recorded since January 1, 2010. The collision/near-collision data comparison included drivers who had recorded at least one such incident in 2010.

The research 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. Through detailed video analysis, SmartDrive is able to quantify distractions such as cell phone usage, text messaging, use of maps or navigation, eating/drinking/smoking, and other actions. Event data is categorized and scored according to 50+ safety observations. The research compares drivers in their first three weeks on the SmartDrive Safety program with drivers who have benefited from more time in the program.