Have you ever texted while driving? Or perhaps ate your breakfast on the way to work? Maybe you attempted to reroute your navigation system while at the wheel? Unfortunately these have become habits and most of us are guilty of distracted driving at some point. We know the risks of distracted driving, but why aren’t we changing our actions?
Think that only novice drivers are at risk of distracted driving accidents? It is time to dispel that notion. Distracted driving is not just a concern for teenage drivers. Yes, statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that 25% of teen drivers acknowledge that they text once or more each time they drive. But, they are not the only distracted drivers; drivers of all ages are involved in distracted driving situations. NHTSA surveys show that at any given daylight moment, there are 660,000 drivers using cell phones or electronic devices while driving.
The NHTSA defines distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” They distinguish three main types of distractions:
- Manual – taking your hands off the wheel
- Visual – taking your eyes of the road
- Cognitive – taking your mind off driving
Examples of distractions include, but are not limited to the following: eating, putting on makeup, combing hair, reading a map, adjusting the radio/iPod, using a navigation system, using a cellphone, and of course, texting. Distractions such as these not only endanger the driver and passenger, but also the safety of bystanders.
What Does Distracted Driving Mean To Your Business?
Regardless of the nature of your business, distracted driving puts your employees at risk every day. Employees are your greatest asset; you want them to arrive to work and make it home safely each day. You also want them to make it safely to a jobsite, a visit to a client, etc. One NHTSA poster lays it out simply: “Dear employees: We want to see you back here tomorrow. So please: When you start your car, turn your phone off. We value you!”
If your company employs a fleet, the risk of distracted driving becomes a more significant part of every workday. Your employees are out on the road representing the company. If they are driving distracted it could reflect poorly on the company, especially if their distracted driving leads to an accident. Employees are also at risk of endangering their own lives by driving distracted, which is a risk that companies want to protect against. Educating your drivers on the importance of safe driving can not only protect their own lives and the lives of other drivers and bystanders, but it can also help protect your company reputation.
What Can You Do?
Educate your employees on safe driving and raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving. There are numerous resources available online, including a toolkit and publications from the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety related to their “Drive Safely Work Week.”
You can also enact a distracted driving policy to show your employees that you support distraction-free driving. A sample policy can be found here. Encourage your employees to take the NHSTA pledge to drive phone-free, and to share the pledge with their friends and family.
It is also important to educate your employees on the driving laws related to cell phone usage as it does vary from state to state. The NHTSA has a resource to help you find what the laws are in each state. Indiana, for example, has a ban on texting for all drivers, as well as ban on all cell phone use, both handheld and hands-free, for novice drivers. But if you were to drive into Illinois, you become subject to their much more stringent laws. Texting is banned, and in addition, in January 2014 a new law went into effect banning the use of handheld cell phones for all drivers.
According to the CDC Distracted Driving Study, each day in the US, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 are injured in crashes reported to involve a distracted driver. That’s over 3,285 people killed each year because we are not staying focused on the road. Take action. Help prevent your employees from being a part of those statistics.