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Ensuring Your Distracted Driving Policy Measures Up

April 30, 2024


Distracted driving remains a pressing issue on America’s roads, with staggering statistics reflecting its toll. In 2015 alone, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported 391,000 injuries and 3,477 fatalities attributed to distracted driving.

Despite increased awareness and education, these numbers continue to rise.

For employers and fleet managers, distracted driving extends beyond the concerns of damage to people and vehicles. The cost of distracted driving crashes can take a heavy toll on a company, particularly when it comes to the employer’s financial liability. If an employee crashes while driving a company vehicle, the employer is the one who is ultimately held responsible — and the cost can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars per incident.

While implementing a distracted driving policy is a smart idea, it’s only the beginning. Making sure the policy is followed and that you provide education and monitoring is essential. Your policy is only as effective as it is enforced.

If you have a distracted driving policy in place, make sure that you’re getting the most out of that policy. Here are seven tips for making sure that your distracted driving policy is up to snuff.

No. 1: Start with the Law

The most common form of distracted driving is cell phone use or texting. In some states, it’s not just considered unsafe, it’s against the law. Knowing the laws for your state and making sure employees know them, too, is a good starting point.

Emphasize your state and local laws in your distracted driving policy to reinforce the importance of adherence. Make sure that the policy applies to contractors working on behalf of your company as well as full-time employees.

No. 2: Go Beyond Phone Calls and Texts

Since so much of the concern about distracted driving has centered on phone calls and texting, it’s sometimes easy to forget about the other things that also serve as distractions to the driver.

Remember to include the usage of handheld tablets, infotainment, and navigation systems as part of your policy. Distracted driving also comes from eating and drinking, so make sure these unsafe practices are addressed as well.

In short, anything that can be a distraction in the vehicle warrants inclusion in your policy.

No. 3: Be Specific

A specific policy is easier to enforce. Instead of merely stating that cell phone use is prohibited, specify that it includes both handheld and hands-free devices. Additionally, ensure the policy applies whenever a driver is operating a company vehicle, regardless of their work hours. Clear guidelines leave no room for interpretation, strengthening the effectiveness of the policy.

No. 4: Monitor Compliance

There are several ways to ensure that employees are complying with your distracted driving policy; one easy way is to use technology that blocks cell phone use when the vehicle is in motion. You can also hold drivers accountable by checking records of company-issued phones and comparing usage with times when a driver was behind the wheel.

The CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends explaining why the system is being put in place and how it works. Make sure they understand what it can do to improve their safety to ensure more widespread acceptance of the program.

Ideally, as employees become familiar with the distracted driving policy, and as they are more aware that they are being monitored, compliance will improve.

No. 5: Reinforce with Training

Educating employees about distracted driving goes hand-in-hand with a good policy; it helps employees recognize how important the initiative is to the company, and it also drives home the reasons that such a policy is needed.

For example, Smith System’s Driving Distracted training DVD illustrates how everyday distractions can have a permanent, catastrophic effect. It also provides tips and tools to help reduce the risk of collisions.

By alerting drivers to the dangers of distracted driving, as well as offering sound, proven ways to avoid such situations, the training can help drivers be more aware and help them better understand how to stay safe.

Offering refresher courses every two years at the most can help remind drivers of areas where they might be slipping a bit when it comes to safety. The NIOSH reports that the companies with the best safety performance typically provide refresher training every two to three years.

No. 6: Spell Out Punishment and Consequences

Making sure that drivers understand the consequences of not adhering to the policy is an effective way to demonstrate how important the policy is. According to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), there’s a direct correlation between companies with low crashes per million miles (CPMM) and those that enforce their distracted driving policy with disciplinary action.

The consequences must also be substantial and impactful on the employee, not just a “slap on the wrist” — such as specifying that workers who violate the policy will be terminated.

Remind employees and contractors that they can also be held personally liable when a crash occurs, both by your company and by a plaintiff. Having drivers sign a form indicating they understand the consequences of violating the policy sends a message about your company’s commitment to enforcing the policy.

No. 7: Schedule Periodic Reviews and Updates

Technology is changing rapidly, so the tools being used or the types of distractions drivers encounter can change, as well. A good distracted driving policy needs to remain current in order to be effective. Plan to conduct an annual review of the policy and make whatever changes are required to keep it relevant.

If you want to make the most of your distracted driving policy, contact Smith System® to see how we can help you improve driver safety.

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