Companies that employ people to drive as part of their job are affected by distracted driving.
Even if only viewed from a risk management perspective, addressing distracted driving awareness is a significant concern. When looking at the issue from an employee safety angle, there is no dollar amount that can be equated with significant injury or loss of life.
In 2012, Coca-Cola was hit with a $21 million distracted driving judgment after an employee, who had been talking on her cell phone at the time, struck & seriously injured a woman. Within the judgment is a caution for all business owners; “Coca-Cola’s cell phone policy for its drivers was ‘vague & ambiguous,” and although aware of the dangers, “they withheld this information from its employee.”
Employee safety is a primary concern closely followed by essential risk management practices. Raising awareness about the risks involved with driving distracted should be a top priority for employers, and a number of companies are taking proactive steps to address the issue.
From small business owners to Fortune 500 companies, distracted driving policies are put in place to protect employees and companies as well as the communities in which they live & work. No business owner wants a phone call reporting that their branded vehicle was seen driving erratically because the driver was busy juggling a cell phone while sipping their morning coffee.
Employers must take the lead to ensure their workplace policies, or the absence of them, do not foster a culture of distraction. Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) should be reviewed to ensure a safe working environment when on the road.
David Teater, Senior Director, Transportation Initiatives, with the National Safety Council shares how companies and organizations can protect their employees by educating them about distracted driving and with effective workplace policies. “Make sure your people get educated,” is David’s top recommendation. According to David, the vast majority of companies who have put cell phone policies in place have seen no reduction in productivity and credits people’s ability to adapt for these surprising results. He also identifies that the majority of calls people think are critical are actually not, and instead are just used to pass time while on the road.
In 2007, Finning Canada implemented their first distracted driving policy. Tom Petras, Finning’s director of environmental health & safety for the Caterpillar equipment dealership, knew there would be challenges. Supervisors had to be trained to address and overcome complaints about changing habitual behaviors.
With roll-out support from the safety department and supervisors, it wasn’t long before reports of a ‘sense of relief’ began rolling in as the pressure to stay connected & respond instantaneously while driving was removed. Not surprisingly, there was a drop in motor vehicle incidents and a 40% drop in cell phone expenses.
Having a policy in place may not be enough to protect a company from liability. Creating or updating an existing policy to meet current legislation and workplace safety requirements may not provide adequate protection for companies and their workforce. Distracted driving risks may also go beyond the use of hand-held or hands-free communication devices; the policy should address: tablet/ computer use, fatigue, boredom, repetition & complacency.
The bottom line is important to any business owner; however, a balance must be struck between productivity and risk management to effectively address safety issues.
TIPS for Effective Distracted Driving Policies
- Communicate crash risks, personnel safety concerns & the need for a workable policy.
- Be clear & specific – address talking and/or texting, hand-held and/or hands-free.
- Ensure the policy is enforced consistently, across the board and with no exceptions, including management so they can lead by example.
- Detail expected behaviour, e.g. when pulled over to safely make or receive a call or text, vehicle must be in ‘Park’.
- Implement risk management programs to actively & passively enforce the policy; workplace awareness posters, mandatory education
- program (during Safety Start-Ups or Stand-Downs), in-vehicle reminders (stickers, key chains, etc.).
- Include in new employee orientation programs.
- Reward/Recognition program for observed safe practices in line with policy.
- Appropriate consequences for infractions.
- Create an Employee Safety Task force–get non-management employees on board with the policy by having them involved in its creation thereby addressing productivity concerns and employer expectations.
Distracted Driving Stats & Facts You Need to Know
- Recent CAA survey shows that 80% of all collisions involve driver distraction. – Canadian Automobile Association 2011 Survey.
- The National Safety Council recommends policies prohibit hand-held and hands-free devices and that it apply to ALL employees, including management.
- Nearly 3 Canadian drivers out of 4 admit to driving distracted. – Insurance Bureau of Canada.
- 49% of adults admitted to texting while driving. – AT&T USA Study
- Over 100,000 accidents a year involved driving who are texting, the numbers are climbing sharply. – AT&T USA Insider
- Distracted drivers are a risk to employees and employers.
- Economic losses caused by traffic collision-related health care costs and lost productivity are at least $10 billion annually. That’s about 1% of Canada’s GDP! – Government of Canada.
- An AMEC survey of its employees across North America found 95% of respondents did not experience a decrease in productivity as a result of the ban of wireless devices while driving during work hours.
- The AMEC employee survey also reported more than 97% of respondents agreed that talking on a cell phone impacts a person’s ability to drive safely. 96% felt that responsible companies should discourage employee use of wireless communications devices while driving.
- “It’s not a question of what your hands are doing. It’s a question of what your head is doing. And so when your head is engaged in that phone conversation, you become blind to some of the things happening around you.”- Dr. Ira Hyman, Western Washington University.