Eliminate Distractions Behind the Wheel

Auto accidents are the leading causes of on-the-job fatalities across the country. In 2008, they accounted for 1,215 deaths, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Many of those fatalities—between 20 and 50 percent, according to reports—could have been prevented if the drivers had simply been paying attention.

Everyday tasks such as eating, putting on makeup, using the cell phone and changing the radio station divert our attention, putting us, our passengers and fellow drivers at risk.

In fact, a 2009 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that people who send text messages while driving are over 23 times more likely to have an accident.

The monetary costs of on-the-job accidents are easy to quantify. Nobody, however, can put a price on the human costs.

Fortunately, most auto-related accidents are avoidable if employers and employees do their part.

What can employers do?
Employers are responsible for putting qualified drivers behind the wheel, whether they are using company cars or their personal vehicles:

  • Implement a company policy that includes basic safe driving rules and criteria for employee driving records. The policy should require employees to wear their seat belts while driving on company time and prohibit them from sending text messages while driving.
  • Check employees’ driving records before you begin allowing them to drive on company time, and at least annually thereafter, to ensure they meet your standards.
  • Remind drivers not to answer cell phones while they are driving. Require employees to return phone messages while they are not operating a vehicle.
  • Have drivers agree not to use their cell phones or do other things that might distract them while driving.

What can employees do?
Most importantly, remember that no distraction is worth your life. Don’t risk the consequences your family could face if you are involved in an auto-related accident:

  • Buckle up every time; it could save your life.
  • Avoid distractions such as eating, texting or changing the radio station while the vehicle is moving.
  • Turn your cell phone off, or put it on silent when you get behind the wheel.
  • If the phone rings, let it go to voice mail. Pull off the road to a safe place, and return the call.
  • If you must take a phone call while driving, use a hands-free device, keep it short and let the caller know you will call them back as soon as you can get to a safe place. Remember, however, that most studies show hands-free devices are of limited value in reducing distractions.
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