Workers in many industries and occupations spend part of their workdays on the road. Drivers who are on the job may be more likely than others to be in a hurry to reach their destination, think about work, be tired, or use a cell phone.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is using Distracted Driving Awareness Month – April – to remind employers about how and why to prevent their employees from driving while distracted.
3,179 fatalities in one year
The “why” is simple: distracted driving is dangerous and costly. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) 16 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the U.S. in 2014 involved a distracted driver. Some 3,179 people died and 431,000 people were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. Even those not in vehicles are at risk: 520 non-occupants (e.g., pedestrians and cyclists) died in crashes that year that involved a distracted driver.
Eating and arguing
While texting gets the lion’s share of the attention, any non-driving activity a driver engages in is a potential distraction, including eating, drinking or arguing with a passenger. Distracted driving occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off your primary task: driving safely.
According to NIOSH, here’s what employers can do to discourage distracted driving among their workers:
- Ban texting and hand-held phone use while driving a company vehicle, and apply the same rules to use of a company-issued phone while driving a personal vehicle.
- Consider banning the use of hands-free phones.
- Require workers to pull over in a safe location if they must text, make a call, or look up directions.
- Prepare workers before implementing these policies by communicating:
- How distracted driving puts them at risk of a crash
- That driving requires their full attention while they are on the road
- What they need to do to comply with the policies
- What action you will take if they do not follow the policies
- Consider having workers acknowledge that they have read and understand these policies.
- Provide workers with information to help them talk to their family about distracted driving.