Do Not Disturb the Drivers

The risk of roadway crashes associated with on-the-job operation of motor vehicles affects millions of U.S. workers. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show that in 2008, nearly 3.9 million workers in the United States were classified as motor vehicle operators. Most of the vehicular accidents involve companies’ employees who are in non-Department of Transportation regulated vehicles and conducting incidental activities.

Whether running a bank errand or driving a company truck to a service call, employees perform multiple work-related activities in a moving vehicle. Think about how many times a day you see an inattentive driver talking on a cell phone or attempting to send a text message or email. A survey conducted in 2010 found that 71 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 49 admit they text or talk on the phone while driving. Unfortunately, these tasks can often end in tragedy and affect the bottom line of your business.

Talking on the cell phone while driving. Many companies have field employees whose primary communication tool is a cell phone. Employers should consider whether or not the company’s driver policy addresses cell phone use while driving. In some accidents, lawsuits have been filed with the employer being held responsible. Whether it is a company vehicle or not, as long as the employee is on company business and the employer has either required or understood that the employee talks on the cell phone while handling business, the company could be held liable. Research has shown that even the use of a hands-free device is still a significant distraction. To be safe, turn off your cell phone and put it away so you won’t be tempted to answer a phone call.

Text messaging or emailing while driving. Text messaging and emailing requires you to take your eyes off the road. Those few seconds could cost your or someone else’s life. Even though texting and accessing emails on your cell phone makes it easier to communicate in business, it does not mean the car is an appropriate place to continue the conversation. How long does it take for texting or emailing to make an impact? In five seconds and traveling at 40 miles per hour, your car travels approximately the length of a football field.

What can employers do?

  • Protect employees and your company’s bottom line by implementing a driver safety program. Implement a company driver’s policy that includes basic safe driving rules, cell phone policies, seatbelt requirements and other safe practices to eliminate or minimize drivers’ distractions.
  • Check employees’ driving records before they are allowed to drive for the company to ensure they meet all established company standards. Follow up on driving records at least annually.
  • Remind employees not to answer cell phones while driving. If they must make a call or send a text or email, they should do so once they are safely stopped.
  • Use Texas Mutual’s free resources on driver’s safety to educate supervisors and employees.

What can employees do?

  • Avoid distractions such as talking on the cell phone, text messaging, emailing, changing the radio station and eating while driving. Make all of your calls and send your texts and emails before driving or once you reach your destination.
  • Only use your cell phone when you are safely stopped. If you must take a call, use a hands-free device and pull off the road to a safe location to finish the call.
  • Obey driving laws and practice safe driving habits.

The better educated employers and employees are about potential driving distractions, the smarter choices they will make.

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