A study of drivers observed through an in-cab video/vehicle data safety system found that a small percent of drivers are most likely to be involved in a distracted driving behavior when they do something dangerous like swerve or slam on the brakes.

The SmartDrive Distracted Driving Index summarized the 2010 performance of commercial drivers observed during a benchmark period prior to starting the SmartDrive Safety program. SDDI data is compiled using in-vehicle recorders that capture video, audio and vehicle data during sudden stops, swerves, collisions and other risky driving maneuvers.

The study covered more than 13.8 million video events recorded and 34,466 commercial drivers.

Reviewing this data lets SmartDrive quantify distractions such as cell phone usage, text messaging, use of maps or navigation, doing paperwork, and other actions. The percentages reflect how often such a distraction was observed when a risky driving maneuver, like a swerve or collision, was recorded.

The study showed that the top 5 percent of drivers with the most driving distractions were distracted 67 percent of the time during which a risky driving maneuver was observed - nearly six times more often than the rest of the drivers.

Overall, the study found that 9.7 percent of the time risky driving maneuvers were observed, distracted driving activities were also observed.

Two particularly risky distractions are more common among a small percentage the benchmark drivers - using a handheld mobile phone and operating a handheld device. In both instances just 5 percent of the drivers accounted for the majority of events involving those devices - 57 percent of all mobile phone incidents captured and 52 percent of all operating-handheld-device incidents.

The nine most common distractions observed in conjunction with a risky driving maneuver were:

* Object in Hand, 44.5%, which includes mp3 players, PDAs and paperwork
* Talking on a Handheld Mobile Phone, 13.4%
* Beverage, 12.7%
* Food, 10.1%
* Smoking, 9.9%
* Operating a Handheld Device, 9.1%
* Talking/Listening Mobile Phone - Hands Free, 5.2%
* Manifest, Map or Navigation, 1%
* Grooming/Personal Hygiene, 0.6%