April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It’s the right time to take a closer look at this prevalent problem and dangerous behavior that claimed 3,477 lives in 2015 alone. Millions of workers drive or ride in a motor vehicle as part of their jobs. Knowing that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of work-related deaths in the U.S, the risk is there.
About Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. Many distractions exist while driving, but cell phones are a top distraction. Texting is the most alarming one: sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds.
At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. Holding a phone in your hands while driving is illegal in many states. Even if other distractions such as eating, putting make-up on, and having a dog sitting in your lap are not illegal, it doesn’t mean that you should still do it.
Keeping workers safe on the road
Distracted driving is a growing risk to workplace safety but both employer and employees can tremendously change the tendency with few easy steps. Companies that have a policy that prohibits any use of the smartphone while the vehicle is in motion (and actively enforce the policy) have seen drops in crash rates in excess of 50%.
Efficient steps for the employer
- Face and address the issue. 400.000 people are injured every year because they were not paying attention to the road. Addressing it gives you an opportunity to establish and enact best practices and be a leader in the community.
- Require workers to pull over in a safe location if they must text, make a call, or look up directions.
- Use health and safety promotion programs to get road safety information to all employees and their families to improve their road safety on and off the job.
- Partner with local and state governments and safety advocacy groups that will help you identify regional safety problems, select solutions, and create real change. You can also organize speeches and conference in the work place with professionals.
- Choose fleet vehicles with advanced safety features like automatic emergency braking. It raises the level of safety for everyone on the road.
The example of Tulsa
While no state has a law prohibiting all cell phone use while driving, employers are putting policies in place banning the use of handheld and hands-free devices. See how the city of Tulsa implemented a total-ban cell phone policy for employees.
Simple steps for the employee
- Take your time driving. The entire object is to keep yourself and your passengers safe on the road.
- Store loose gear, possessions and other distractions that could roll around in the car, so you do not feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.
- Secure children and pets before getting underway. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely to care for them. Reaching into the backseat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Do not manipulate your smartphone while driving your vehicle. If the device is used for music or navigation, it should be programmed before the drive commences. Activate the “Driving mode” on your phone if available.
- Do your multi-tasking outside the car.
- Limit the level of activity inside the car.
How to prevent drowsy driving
Driver fatigue, which may be a result of insufficient sleep, long distances traveled to well sites, and long work shifts, is a factor in some of these crashes. In addition to the loss of life, the average on-the-job fatal crash is estimated to cost employers $671,000. Legal settlements can be even more costly.
- Implement a fatigue management policy and program, and integrate it into your existing health and safety management system.
- Limit the number of hours employees may work and drive per day or trip segment.
- Provide a rested driver to transport workers from remote sites after extended shifts.
- Practice open communication, and check in regularly with drivers to create a culture of caring.
- Make sure workers have an opportunity for sufficient sleep.
- Educate workers about how alcohol and drugs impair driving, and the possible side effects of prescription and over-the-counter medications.
- Consider using technologies to detect fatigue before driving (such as actigraphs that monitor rest/ activity cycles) and while driving (such as lane departure warning systems). The alertme drowsy driver device is a great safety tool for any driver as it helps prevent accidents caused by falling asleep behind the wheel.
This article is referring to researches and recommendations from:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov)
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (https://www.nhtsa.gov)
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) (https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/index.htm)
- The American Automobile Association (https://exchange.aaa.com)
- International Transport forum (itf-oecd.org)