Distracted driving is a major cause of accidents, whether your business operates a small fleet of service vehicles or you are in the transportation sector. As a business owner, it is your legal responsibility under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) to safeguard drivers at work. This holds true whether or not they drive full-time or occasionally in the course of their work day. When your employees are behind the wheel, their safety is your business.
Distracted driving is defined as any activity that diverts attention away from the road. This could involve eating your lunch or fiddling with the radio, but more commonly, it is from the use of cell phones or other electronic devices. These activities not only create a manual or visual distraction but they also create a cognitive distraction. Your brain’s primary focus has shifted from the act of driving and is now being burdened with other tasks. And, the consequences can be deadly.
Accidents Happen—By the Numbers
- Nearly 80% of all vehicle accidents involve driver inattention, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
- In 2016, 40,200 American died in car crashes, according to the National Safety Council.
- Texting can take your eyes off of the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, this is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field—with your eyes closed.
- During daylight hours studies show that 481,000 people are using cell phones while driving.
- Hand-held cell phone use while driving is highest among 15- to 29-year-old drivers.
Stop! Follow These Directions
In most states the use of hand held cell phones is illegal. While employers can simply say “just don’t do it,” there is more to talk about and incorporate into your safety program. A survey conducted by Travelers Insurance found that only 27% of commercial clients were strictly enforcing their distracted driving policy.
Here are some tips to help you develop a workplace committed to preventing distracted driving:
- Prohibit texting while driving and consider implementing a “no cell phone use” policy in your employee safety manual.
- Incorporate safe communication practices into new employee orientation.
- Establish work procedures and rules that do not make it necessary for workers to use a hand-held phone or other electronic devices while driving.
- Set up clear procedures, times, and places for drivers to safely text or use other technologies for communicating with managers, customers, and others.
- Educate employees to be alert so they can identify other drivers who are distracted on the road so they can maintain a safe distance from those vehicles. You don’t have to be the driver on the phone to be involved in an accident. You could be the unlucky vehicle hit by that person.
- Eliminate financial incentive and other systems that encourage workers to text while driving.
Driving Up Insurance Costs
Not only is distracted driving a major concern from a public safety standpoint but it’s driving up the cost of your auto insurance. Americans are driving more and more miles, and their eyes aren’t on the road. This results in more accidents and more insurance claims.
Insurance companies are struggling with commercial auto losses as the frequency and severity of claims continue to rise. Commercial auto pricing is seeing an average rate increase of 5% across the industry. How this shows up on an individual renewal will depend on the type of operation and the individual loss experience of the business.
A good driver training and fleet safety program can better position your business to minimize the amount of increase. Be sure to have an insurance agent work closely with you to create a culture of safety, which should include how to minimize the number of claims. A severe accident can not only impact your auto insurance, but also your workers’ compensation premiums.
Show Them the Way
Model good behavior. Don’t use your electronic devices when driving. Coach up your colleagues, family and friends – call them out. As employers, we want our people to make it home at the end of their work day. Changing the culture of distracted driving will require all of us to commit to it.
Need help addressing distracted driving within your business? – Let’s talk.