This is part of our series designed for busy business and HR leaders responsible for managing safety programs.
How many times do you see drivers on the road looking down at cell phones? Recently, I even saw someone driving on I-5 reading a book! It’s crazy that people don’t realize how unsafe distracted driving is—to themselves and to everyone around them.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of worker-related deaths in the U.S and in Oregon. Distracted drivers were involved in 12,006 accidents between 2013 and 2017, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation. This resulted in 95 fatalities and 18,429 injuries.
So, let’s talk about how to help keep your employees safe while they are driving on the job.
How to mitigate the three most common driving risks.
Distracted driving can take many forms, but there are a few common categories that cause the most problems. Your driving policies can direct employees to take steps to reduce their risk while on company time.
1. Risk: Cell phones
Does your policy set the expectation that using cell phones while driving is prohibited? It should. The National Safety Council research indicates that you are four times more likely to crash if you’re using a cell phone. If your employees are expected to answer the phone and conduct business while driving, the risk of accidents is much greater. You could also face additional penalties, since the use of a cell phone while driving is illegal in many jurisdictions, including Oregon. While using a “handsfree” cell phone can be legal, studies have shown that it still poses a significant risk.
Many cell phones, including iPhones, have the option of sensing when the employee is driving and automatically sending an “away” response to texts, indicating that the employee is driving and will respond as soon as it is safe to do so. If the message is urgent, the sender can push the message through. Making this option standard on all company-provided cell phones could reduce the risk of accidents, while also clearly communicating the expectation of not using cell phones while driving.
2. Risk: Divided Attention
The use of cell phones isn’t the only way drivers are distracted. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration defines distracted driving as any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, or any other action that takes your focus off the road, including operating controls of the car. To tackle the risk of distracted driving it is important to clearly communicate the risks and set clear expectations for employees to self-manage the risks.
A fleet telematics program may be a good solution for your organization. The devices are small and can be placed in the diagnostic port of almost all vehicles. They measure speed, rapid acceleration, and abrupt stopping. Some can also be used to limit idling and reduce miles driven by improving routing. Drivers are given a score based on their safe driving performance. This score can be used to “gamify” good driving behavior and reward employees.
3. Risk: Fatigue
Fatigue can also have an impact on driver safety. Studies have shown that more than 60% of adult drivers report having driven while drowsy. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year. This results in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses.
Encourage your employees to know the signs that they may be at risk of an accident, and empower them to get the rest they need. Employees with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, should be encouraged to seek medical attention.
Here are some signs that should tell a driver to stop and rest:
- Difficulty focusing, frequent blinking, or heavy eyelids
- Daydreaming; wandering/disconnected thoughts
- Trouble remembering the last few miles driven; missing exits or traffic signs
- Yawning repeatedly or rubbing your eyes
- Trouble keeping your head up
- Drifting from your lane, tailgating, or hitting a shoulder rumble strip
- Feeling restless and irritable
How to protect employees with safe driving policies.
Now that you know more about how to mitigate common driving risks, grab your policy and let’s make sure you are using best practices.
1. Make sure you have a written driver or fleet safety policy.
2. Conduct a regular review of employee motor vehicle records.
3. Establish criteria to authorize drivers, except employees with a significant history of traffic violations and convictions.
4. Include a ride-along driving evaluation for all potential drivers. This could also be incorporated into the overall performance evaluation process.
5. Require and deliver driver safety training to encourage defensive driving and other best practices. Trainings should include distracted driving and fatigued driving awareness information.
6. Prohibit cell phone usage while driving.
7. Prohibit impaired driving including the use of prescription drugs that can impact driving.
8. Work with your vehicle insurance provider to make sure your policies are consistent with your policy. For example, you may be able to lower your premiums if you restrict the age of your authorized drivers.
If you have special circumstances, you may want assistance in evaluating your organization’s safe driver policies. The experts at Integrated Success are prepared to offer the support you need to manage a top safety program and keep your employees safe on the road.
Yours in success,
Chief Safety Consultant
Rebecca is the Chief Safety Consultant of Integrated Success HR Consulting & Coaching, LLC. She has extensive credentials and experience as an Environmental Health and Safety/Risk Management professional and leader across a variety of industries. Her background in for-profit, non-profit and governmental organizations, and as a former OSHA compliance officer, means Rebecca knows how to design cost-effective programs that really work. Rebecca’s passion is translating her vast experience into straight-forward programs for busy leaders.