Distracted driving – a workplace epidemic

by Staff Writer

Distracted driving isn’t just a problem for teenage drivers and commuters. Driving on the job and even professional drivers are equally at risk.  In this fast paced world, multitasking isn’t just tempting, it’s required…sometimes especially when you’re traveling.  So if any part of your business includes employees taking to the road behind the wheel, you can’t afford not to read this.

Think I’m over-exaggerating?  Consider the following 2 facts:

The #1 cause of workplace deaths in the U.S. is transportation accidents
In 2010, transportation accidents accounted for about 40% of all occupational deaths in the U.S. (1,766) and more than half of those occurred on highways.

Distracted driving is the #1 cause of traffic accidents
More than 500,000 people are injured, and another 6,000 are killed each year by drivers who are distracted, according to statistics. Reports have claimed up to 80% of all accidents involve some kind of distraction as a factor.

Defining Distractions

With the advent of cellphone technology, as well as texting as an increasingly popular form of communication, the road became a little more dangerous, therefore, banning hand-held phone use should make the roads safer, right? Well, not exactly. According to a study by the IIHS, such laws have done little to improve the safety of the roads. Other studies have also concluded that the simple act of listening on the phone can reduce your attention to driving by as much as 37%. And that’s without taking your eyes off the road…so much for hands free devices.

And it isn’t just the phone that’s to blame, either. Eating, changing the radio, looking in the mirror, and looking for something while you drive are all dangerous distractions that can cause accidents. In fact, eating and driving might actually be the single worst distracted driving offense, increasing the odds of an accident by 80%!

Consider the following:
At 40 mph it takes only 2.9 seconds to travel the suggested safe distance of 4 car lengths (1 car length for every 10 mph).  The following is a list of things that take your eyes off the road (on average) for longer than that time:

  • Texting – 4.7s
  • writing – 4.2s
  • use of calculator – 4.4s
  • Map reading – 3.9s
  • dialing cell phone – 3.8s
  • personal grooming – 3.7s
  • look back at child in rear seat – 3.7s
  • reach for object – 3.0s

[source]

Company Policy & Employee Awareness

What can an employer do about distracted driving?  A lot, actually.  The first step is addressing the issue head on and figuring out how it can potentially affect your business.  Identifying employees that drive as well as company processes that could potentially add to driver distractions.  Then you can develop a plan which should include awareness, training, and a clear company policy dedicated to preserving driver safety.

A strong company policy for driving safety is imperative for reducing the risks of on-the-job driving accidents. Not only guidelines for employees while they are driving company vehicles, but also regular safety awareness seminars/campaigns/training for all employees who travel on company time. Guidelines, rules, and awareness campaigns should stress the importance of giving driving 100% of the attention while the vehicle is in gear. Ideally, multitasking of any kind should be discouraged and outright prohibited, including hands-free devices.

Beyond that, a proactive approach can be taken in order to enable employee drivers to avoid distractions. This can be done a number of ways.  Anything from embracing technologies that help keep drivers alert to simply re-organizing delivery/route processes and/or organization.  Anything to make sure employees who are driving the car can put their full and undivided attention to the road.

Initiatives & Other Resources

There are a number of government and non-profit initiatives that are designed to bring awareness to and take on distracted driving.  A number of studies, resources, and awareness campaigns that are designed to understand the problem so that we can communicate solutions that actually reduce distracted driving traffic accidents.

Distraction.gov
The official government website for distracted driving” From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), distraction.gov might be the most comprehensive internet resource on the subject. It contains research, awareness campaigns, as well as a complete blueprint for reducing distracted driving accidents.

OSHA’s Distracted Driving Initiative
OSHA is also dedicated to reducing distracted driving in the workforce. They have teamed up with the U.S. Department of Labor and Department of Transportation to help bring awareness to the issue. Their brochure and much of their awareness initiative focuses mostly on texting while driving, but they have other great resources for businesses like their sample employee policy on distracted driving.

American Society of Safety Engineers
The ASSE designated April of this year as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but also continues to promote awareness of the issue year round in a number of ways:

Other Resources & Initiatives:

 

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