Distractology 101: A Quick Course in Deadly Driving Distractions and What to Do about Them

Source: Safety Daily Advisor

The battle against driving distractions is being fought in state houses, on highways, and in corporate offices, where employee driving policies are being revised to help stem the surge of distracted driving accidents on the job.

Consider the facts about work-related road accidents:

  • Motor vehicle crashes account for nearly one-quarter of all fatal occupational injuries and remain the leading cause of work-related deaths.
  • On average, an injury-related crash costs an employer $150,000 and a property damage incident costs $24,500.
  • The National Safety Council estimates that at least 24 percent of crashes in 2010 involved drivers using cell phones. More than 1 million involved talking, and at least 160,000 involved drivers texting.
  • Over all, distracted-driver accidents resulted in 3.092 deaths in 2010 and 416,000 injuries.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.”

All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.

A number of studies have found that the risk of a crash is four times as likely when someone is using a phone. Hands-free devices do not appear to eliminate the cognitive distraction of conversation.

And its not just phones that are the problem. Among other common driving distractions:

  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, NHTSA says that it is “by far the most alarming distraction.” Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that’s equivalent to driving the length of an entire football field without looking.

Get It in Writing

One way you can make a difference is by establishing a cell phone policy for employees who drive on the job. NHTSA offers the following sample policy, which you can adapt by including specific consequences of noncompliance:

In order to increase employee safety and eliminate unnecessary risks behind the wheel, [Company Name] has enacted a Distracted Driving Policy, effective [Date]. We are committed to ending the epidemic of distracted driving and have created the following rules, which apply to any employee operating a company vehicle or using a company-issued cell phone while operating a personal vehicle:

Company employees may not use a hand-held cell phone while operating a vehicle—whether the vehicle is in motion or stopped at a traffic light. This includes, but is not limited to, answering or making phone calls, engaging in phone conversations, and reading or responding to e-mails, instant messages, and text messages.

If company employees need to use their phones, they must pull over safely to the side of the road or another safe location.

Additionally, company employees are required to:

  • Turn cell phones off or put them on silent or vibrate before starting the car.
  • Consider modifying voice mail greetings to indicate that you are unavailable to answer calls or return messages while driving.
  • Inform clients, associates, and business partners of this policy as an explanation why call may not be returned immediately.

Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood also recommends that employees take a pledge to never text or talk on the phone while driving and to encourage others to do the same.


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