A new study of company vehicle fleet crash rates reveals the top safety performers are companies with policies enacting a total ban on cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) and that establish strong consequences-including termination-for employees who violate such policies.

The latest Strength in Numbers Fleet Benchmarking Study, sponsored by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), found the significant commonalities among the leading performers were not only that they were more likely to have a total ban on mobile phone use, but six of the eight leading companies were also more likely to terminate a driver for violating the company's mobile device policy. By comparison, all 13 companies that fell in the bottom of the rankings had some degree of a mobile device policy, but none had the option to terminate a driver for violating the policy.

The year-long benchmarking study examined fleets from 45 leading companies in the pharmaceutical, oil and gas, food and beverage, telecommunications, transportation, package delivery and insurance industries. The companies, including 27 in the Fortune 500, operate a combined fleet of just over 400,000 vehicles that logged more than 8 billion miles in 2009. The study participants' crash rate per million miles (CPMM) ranged from less than one to nearly 12.

"Last year, distracted driving killed nearly 6,000 people and injured half a million more," said U.S. Transportation Department Secretary Ray LaHood. "I want to thank the companies who have stepped up to help fight talking and texting behind the wheel by establishing employee policies with tough penalties for distracted driving. Through these kinds of efforts, we can put a stop to the needless and tragic deaths and injuries caused by this dangerous epidemic."

"This is the first evidence we've seen that shows the combination of a strong mobile device policy and strict consequences can result in lower crash rates," said Bill Windsor, NETS Board Chairman. "The benchmark study shows the potential for well-written state laws combined with strong enforcement to eventually reduce crash rates in the general population."

The NETS study also revealed that eight out of nine of the top-ranking fleets regularly review drivers' mobile phone records after a crash to determine if the driver was using a phone at the time of the incident. Other best practices include: conducting a commentary drive (ride-along with a co-worker or manager) after a collision; tracking CPMM on a monthly basis; and publishing fleet safety performance via monthly scorecards.