Share these guidelines to aid in your tribe’s distracted driving prevention
Summer is here, and that means more people are hitting the road. This is an excellent time for travel; however, it is also the time of the year when most roadway accidents occur. Better weather usually means an increased volume of traffic, and drivers tend to be less cautious when conditions are ideal. The all-too-often result? Distracted driving.
One of the most prevalent causes of motor vehicle incidents is distracted driving. Crashes caused by technology-related distractions are on the rise. The following distracted driving prevention information can help ensure that your tribal employees are not the victims of a preventable collision this summer.
What is Distracted Driving?
The term “distracted driving” usually brings to mind texting and cell phone use, however it encompasses a much wider range of behaviors, which include:
- Eating or drinking
- Changing radio stations
- Adjusting climate controls
- Conversing with other passengers
- Using a navigational system
Basically, any activity that takes attention off the road constitutes distracted driving, which can be categorized into three types:
- Manual – hands off the wheel
- Visual – eyes off the road
- Cognitive – mind on other matters or tasks
Incidentally, texting or using electronic devices while driving causes all three types of distraction simultaneously. In essence, there is no greater distraction. Using an electronic device utterly impairs a driver’s control over the vehicle. Even if distractions take only moments to address, accidents only take moments to occur. According to statistics prepared by The Zebra:
- Sending or receiving a text takes approximately 5 seconds
- At highway speed (55 to 60 mph), five seconds spent texting is the equivalent of travelling the entire length of a football field blind
- Texting increases normal visual distraction levels by a staggering 400%
Statistics and Costs
Which costs society more – distracted or drunk driving? Despite the prevailing beliefs to the contrary, texting while driving is six times more likely to cause a crash than drunk driving. Use of a cell phone, either hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reaction time as much as the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.08%. According to a report prepared by The Zebra there are three main areas when factoring costs – fatalities, injuries, and damages.
When compared to drunk driving, distracted driving makes up a significantly smaller percentage of fatal collisions per year – 3,500 as opposed to 10,000. However, that doesn’t make distracted driving any less lethal to those who are killed or less preventable from the parties involved.
For each person killed in a crash involving distracted driving, more than a hundred more suffer injuries due to the same, resulting in a much wider societal impact of 391,000 injuries per year. Additionally, injuries don’t have to prove fatal in order to severely impair or permanently affect quality of life.
Despite making up a smaller percentage of fatalities, distracted driving costs society nearly as much as drunk driving every year, approximately $40 billion, compared to $44 billion.
These are billions that don’t have to be spent, lives that don’t have to be lost, and injuries that don’t need to be sustained. Make sure your tribe or tribal enterprise takes the necessary steps to avoid shouldering these kinds of costs.
If your tribe or tribal enterprise requires workers to travel, even over short distances, distracted driving prevention should be a key element of your safety and risk management efforts. At face value, distracted driving can seem like a purely individual affair. However, as technology becomes more portable and integrated into the workplace, employers should be concerned about the implications for any employees that are required to spend time on the road. Consider the following information provided by the National Safety Council and Traffic Safety Administration:
- Motor vehicle collisions make up one-third of all employee deaths; the leading cause of work-related fatalities by a wide margin
- Work-related injury claims caused by motor vehicle collisions cost approximately $74,499, almost twice the average cost of $38,617
- Collisions are overwhelmingly caused by driver error. Distraction, speed, and other driver-related factors make up 94% of caused crashes, as opposed to mechanical failure or roadway conditions.
Distracted Driving Prevention Tips
Consider implementing a safe driver training regimen amongst your tribal employees. Policies and guidelines should be addressed during new employee orientation, periodic safety trainings, and during post-collision analysis.
- Implement a formal safe driving policy that clearly outlines expectations and consequences and ensure that both management and employees strictly adhere to its provisions.
- Educate employees about the risks, even those that do not drive as a condition of their job requirements.
- Avoid contacting employees while they are driving. Set the precedent that work-related communications can wait, and that employee safety is the highest priority. There should be no pressure to conduct work-related communications while driving.
All distractions can be mitigated through the discipline and good sense of the driver. Remind your employees of the following best practices as part of your training:
- Never eat while driving, as it is both a distraction and a choking hazard. Employers should ensure that travelers are able to accommodate their meal breaks off the road and make it part of the safe driving policy to never eat and drive.
- Make sure beverage lids are secure or easily operable before starting the vehicle. Only take drinks when you are at a stop or there is no oncoming traffic.
- Wait to use the controls for radio stations, media, climate control, etc. until you are at a stop or there is no oncoming traffic.
- Remind other passengers not to distract you. Conversations can wait if there is a roadway situation that requires greater attention than usual, such as traffic or construction.
- Turn devices off or store them well out of reach while driving to reduce the temptation to use them.
- Take note of when your mind starts to wander. Remind yourself that what lies at the end of the road journey matters less than your ability to arrive there safely.
- Never assume that others you encounter on the road are safe drivers.
- Always drive defensively.
A driver’s primary responsibility is to be a safe driver. A passenger’s responsibility is to aid the driver, including calling out unsafe behaviors.
As part of your tribe or tribal enterprise’s safe driving campaign, remember that distracted driving prevention is not just a matter of personal preference. It’s a wider issue that concerns every driver and passenger on the road. To learn more, check out AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign, or contact your broker or Mark Sherwood at [email protected] or 800.407.2027.