Distracted driving continues to be a problem for everyone on the road; distracted drivers can cause harm or even death to other drivers, their passengers or themselves. A 2011 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited motor vehicle crashes as the No. 1 cause of work-related deaths, and found that they accounted for 24% of all fatal occupational injuries.
One of the biggest culprits when it comes to distracted driving is cell phone usage, either as a handheld device or through the use of hands-free accessories. According to the National Safety Council, most drivers list communications for work as the most common reason they use phones while driving.
For employers, the threat of distracted driving can spell big trouble. The National Safety Council also reports that employers are being held liable for up to $25 million annually for employee crashes — even if the employee was using a hands-free device.
Employers Need Stronger Safety Policies
Companies with a strong culture of safety are making policies regarding distracted driving part of their best practices. Government municipalities, large industry leaders and small businesses alike realize how important it is to implement a life-saving policy about distracted driving. Creating a distracted driving policy and implementing mandatory training could be an investment that saves your company time, money and — most importantly — lives.
Here’s how to create an effective distracted driving policy that saves lives.
Step 1: Get As Much Input As Possible
Making sure that you’re including all types of distracted driving ensures that there aren’t any “loopholes” that can create legal and financial headaches down the road.
Invite employees, department heads and human resources representatives to submit ideas and areas of concern that the policy should apply to, and do research on what specific distracted driving policies other companies have created. Visit sites like the National Safety Council’s website and the government’s distracted driving site if you need more help creating your policy. Then, make sure it’s vetted by all department heads and management.
Step 2: Plan for Future Technology
As you create your policy, think about what distractions could create problems for drivers in the future. Three decades ago, it was nearly impossible to imagine the hands-free and voice-recognition options we have today, so work to make the policy as forward-thinking as possible.
Some specific guidelines will always apply, such as banning texting (even voice-activated texting) and making or receiving calls.
Your policy should be written to apply to all drivers who are on company time, regardless of whether they are using a company vehicle or a personal one. It also applies to any work-related communications, whether it is being done on a personal device or one owned by the company.
Clarify that these rules apply to all employees, all devices and all vehicles.
Step 3: Implement an Education Program
Proper training and education programs go hand-in-hand with getting employee cooperation for a distracted driving policy. While distracted driving is often equated with tech devices, there are other distractions, from the in-vehicle infotainment panel to GPS devices, to even things like eating that take driver’s eyes and attention away from where it needs to be — the road.
A good training program serves two purposes: It educates drivers about the real and devastating dangers of distracted driving and it gives them the tools they need to become safer behind the wheel.
Step 4: Follow Up With Reminders
In-house marketing is an effective way to reinforce the training and education that employees receive. Consider all the different ways you can reach out to employees — through emails, social media, handouts, guest speakers and giveaways to reward good driving behavior.
Even though this is a mandatory policy, do what you can to make it more appealing and engaging to all employees. As they see the value and necessity of this new policy, they’ll be more eager to embrace it. You can also refresh their knowledge by sharing information that reinforces previously learned behavior, like Smith System Distracted Driving DVDs.
Step 5: Provide Education Updates
Education is not a one-time thing. Refresher education, even if it is through one-day training, online training or another option, is crucial. Not only do drivers tend to let their guard down as more time passes, but they may forget some of the things they learned. Chances are, every time a driver goes through a training course, they’ll take something new away from it.
A strong distracted driving policy is your company’s best defense against collisions that could lead to injuries, loss of life and lawsuits against your business. When every driver knows the policy, and every driver is trained in how to adhere to it, your company is better positioned to avoid crashes and related problems on the road.