Research shows that distractions are responsible for nearly 80 percent of vehicle accidents.
By Daniel Brown, Risk Control Technical Manager, Travelers
These days, 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 shows that these and other distractions are responsible for nearly 80 percent of vehicle accidents, and the problem isn’t just a concern for everyday drivers.
Since the National Safety Council (NSC) reports that the average cost of a work-related motor vehicle injury claim is around $69,000, any business that has employees who drive as part of their job duties should be concerned about distracted driving. This is especially true for companies with a fleet of drivers who are often on the roads for many hours per day, and may be contacted via cell phones several times during a given shift.
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 421,000, up nine percent from the prior year.
To help combat the problem, employers should address distraction effectively. Yet, in a survey of Travelers’ fleet customers, only 27 percent reported having a formal policy on distracted driving that was strictly enforced.
Whether you already have a formal policy or recognize the need for one, there are four steps that can help make your 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, no matter their position.
Communicate— To be most effective, safety policies should be communicated repeatedly. 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 who is following these policies, and actively promote the desired behavior.
Utilizing the four steps outlined above, enforcing the policy and having management commit to a culture of safety by being the example, can help companies and their fleet of drivers understand the importance of focusing on driving while behind the wheel. It’s not only the company that is counting on its drivers to stay focused while driving; family, friends and other motorists sharing the road are also counting on them to drive responsibly.
 Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, Distraction.gov, Key Facts and Statistics.