Drivers encounter several distractions in the course of their daily driving activities. Driving distractions divert attention away from the central task of driving, and may compromise the safety of the driver, passengers and anyone in the vehicle’s path of travel. Cell phone integration, navigation systems and infotainment devices are standard equipment in most vehicles sold today. The problem organizations face is these devices are a major source of distracted driving. It is estimated that distracted driving causes approximately 3,500 fatalities and 391,000 injuries per year. Despite these tragic statistics, approximately 660,000 drivers will use electronic devices during daylight hours each day. As an employer, you want all of your drivers to keep their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and mind on driving safely.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as anything that takes your attention away from driving. Examples of distracted driving include: sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system and eating while driving. It is estimated that cell phone users are four times more likely to be involved in a car accident than drivers not using a cell phone while driving.
Academic studies have proven that there is no safety benefit to using a hands-free device because the human brain cannot process two cognitively demanding tasks at one time. The brain sequentially switches between tasks resulting in a measurable reaction time. Even small amounts of time spent switching tasks can lead to a significant risk from delayed reaction and braking. In December 2011, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that all 50 states and the District of Columbia enact a complete ban of all portable electronic devices including hands free devices. This effort is gaining traction. As of 2017, 47 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving; and 15 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands have banned hand-held cell phones.
The National Safety Council also recommends all employers ban employee use of cell phones while driving. Employers who allow or ignore their employees to use cell phones while driving may be held legally liable for that employee’s negligent driving while acting in the scope of their employment. If an accident occurs and results in a lawsuit, the opposing attorney will look for factors leading to the driver’s negligence, particularly distracted driving. Driver cell phone records, cell tower records, texting records and company fleet safety policies will be examined and reported at trial. There are numerous examples of large jury awards resulting from driver accidents involving distracted driving.
A distracted driving policy, much like a seat belt requirement, is part of a comprehensive fleet safety policy. The most important element of a distracted driving policy is a prohibition against use of a cell phone while operating any company owned, leased or rented vehicle, and the employee’s personal vehicle while driving on behalf of the company. A copy of the written distracted driving policy shall be given to all employees, discussed and signed by all employees.
More Tips for Drivers to avoid Distracted Driving:
- Schedule regular stops along the route for coffee or rest breaks where messages can be returned while the vehicle is stopped.
- Avoid unnecessary adjusting of vehicle settings (e.g., mirrors, temperature controls, radio, and GPS navigation) once the vehicle is in motion, and set navigation systems for audible directions.
- Make sure drivers are well rested, well nourished, and otherwise equipped for the length and purpose of their trip.
- Take the time to prepare in advance for the driving trip so as to avoid uncertainty or confusion regarding the routes, stopping points, pickups, etc.
- Ensure all passengers are wearing their seatbelts and other required securement devices.
- If a driver needs to calm down a disturbed client, they should pull over to a safe location.
- Never drive when impaired from drugs or alcohol.
If you require more assistance, please contact Berkley Human Services Risk Control by email: [email protected] or by phone: 1-855-845-0558.
Other resources may be found at:
- The National Safety Council: nsc.org
- The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: iihs.org
- The National Transportation Safety Board: ntsb.gov
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: nhtsa.gov
- The National Highway Transporation Safety Administration (2018, 04 04). Distracted Driving Overview. Retrieved 04 04, 2018, from The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration: https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving
- The National Safety Council (2017). Top 10 Poster, The truths about cell phone distracted driving. Retrieved 04 04, 2018, from The National Safety Council: http://www.nsc.org/DistractedDrivingDocuments/Safe-Driving-Kit/Top-10-Poster.pdf
- The National Safety Council. (2012). Understanding the distracted brain,why driving hands-free cell phones is a risky behavior. Retrieved 04 04, 2018, from The National Safety Council: http://www.nsc.org/DistractedDrivingDocuments/Safe-Driving-Kit/Top-10-Poster.pdf
- National Conference of State Legislatures. (2018). Cellular phone use and texting while driving laws. Retrieved 04 04, 2018, from NSCL: http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/cellular-phone-use-and-texting-while-driving-laws.aspx
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