Eyes on the Road: Helping Your Employees Avoid Distracted Driving
The statistics paint a grim picture: Vehicle collisions and other roadway incidents are the number one cause of occupational fatalities, accounting for about one-in-four fatal incidents, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Distracted driving, an issue since Henry Ford’s Model T rolled off the assembly line, has become a nation-wide hazard. And today there are more distractions than ever as cell phones have become ubiquitous and navigation systems common. Distracted driving also can result from driver fatigue, eating or drinking, and even talking on a hands-free device.
Yet drivers sending text messages are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. And at least 27% of auto crashes in 2013 involved drivers using mobile phones, according to the National Safety Council.
Vehicle accidents not only result in death and injury. They also have financial consequences. On average, an on-the-job crash costs an employer $128,000 per injury and $3.8 million per fatality, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA). Costs can extend into the millions: A 2012 legal settlement against a food and beverage company totaled $24 million.
So what can employers do to keep colleagues’ eyes on the road and hands on the wheel?
Steering Employees Toward Best Practices
If you haven’t already, you should develop a written fleet safety program for the drivers of your commercial and light vehicles to help protect your employees and bottom line. Among other elements, the plan should include:
- A comprehensive and up-to-date list of major driving distractions.
- Clear direction on training for drivers and managers.
- Compliance monitoring and support.
- A driver pledge to remain distraction-free to create a culture of safety.
- Behavioral driver training and continuous testing to reinforce regulations.
- Advanced technologies — cameras, data recorders, active braking, and cell phone blockers — to identify collision causes, prevent accidents, and change behaviors.
These controls can help you manage your risk, but it’s just as important that your senior executives and managers lead by example, stressing the importance of distraction-free driving and practicing what they preach. And they need to help ensure that all employees pay attention to the personal and business costs of distracted driving and do their part to continue to drive safely.