Most people understand that distracted driving is dangerous, yet the urge to stay connected and productive compels many to use their phones while driving anyway. Research conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) shows that distractions are responsible for nearly 80 percent of vehicle accidents, and the problem isn’t just a concern for everyday drivers. Those who drive for business purposes may face even greater distractions while behind the wheel as a result of the need to stay connected to their customers and managers while out on the road. This can potentially increase their risk of being involved in vehicle accidents and being injured.
The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that the average cost of a work-related motor vehicle injury claim is around $69 thousand. When employees are not paying attention behind the wheel, the chances for a costly injury only increase. In fact, sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. In this time, drivers traveling 55 mph will cover the length of a football field without seeing what is happening around them, increasing their risk of being involved in a crash by a factor of twenty-three times. (U.S. DOT, FMCSA. 2009. Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations.)
Businesses that have employees who drive as part of their job duties should be concerned about distracted driving. This is especially true for small businesses whose operations might be put in jeopardy by injuries, lost productivity and vehicle damage. Reputational damage and litigation costs can also result from a single accident.
Even though many state and federal rules now exist to restrict the use of mobile devices while driving, the problem persists. The number of people injured in distraction-related crashes in 2012 totaled 421 thousand, up nine percent from the prior year. (U.S.DOT, Distraction. gov. 2014. Key Facts and Statistics.)
To help combat the problem, businesses of all sizes should take steps to address driving distractions with their employees. Whether a formal policy is already in place or there is a need for one, there are four steps that can help with implementing a mobile device policy or making an existing policy more effective:
- Create. Develop a formal, written policy stating your organization’s position on mobile device use and other distractions while driving. This policy should apply to everyone in your organization who drives a vehicle, regardless of their position.
- Communicate. To be most effective, safety policies should be communicated often. Have every employee who drives acknowledge in writing that they have read, understand and will abide by the policies. Then, send regular messaging to employees via emails, newsletters and bulletin board postings to communicate the policy.
- Follow. Managers and office staff should lead by example. Let employees know that while they are driving, no phone call or email is more important than their safety. To further prove that point, managers and other staff should defer conversations with employees until they are safely parked.
- Promote. Managers should define the safe driving practices and expected behaviors of those that drive for any business purpose. They should also take the appropriate steps to understand what challenges might keep an employee from following the policy, and plan jobs accordingly to help keep their employees safe.
It’s critical for businesses to take the time to formally address distracted driving and encourage management to demonstrate its commit to safety by being the example. This can help the company’s drivers understand the importance of focusing on driving while behind the wheel. It’s not only the business that is counting on its drivers to stay focused while driving; everyone sharing the road is counting on them to drive responsibly as well.