Distracted Drivers and Rising Workers’ Comp Claims

Distracted driving

What are your employees doing behind the wheel?

Our article “Employee Drivers: A Work-related Risk,”  covered the rise in claims from traffic accidents involving employee drivers. Such accidents are among the leading causes of high-severity Workers’ Compensation injuries.  According to the National Safety Council, the average work-related motor vehicle injury claim costs an average of $69,206. That’s double the cost of other work-related injuries. The lack of training in safe driving techniques is a primary factor of work-related driving accidents. But you can’t have this discussion without putting particular focus on distracted drivers.

A distracted driver is one who is engaged in any activity that diverts his or her attention from the primary task of driving. All distractions put drivers, passengers, and bystanders at risk. Common activities that cause driver distractions are, in no particular order:

  • Text messaging
  • Use of a cell phone
  • Eating or drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading
  • Use of a navigation system
  • Adjusting  radio, CD player, or MP3 player
Who are these distracted drivers?

It’s been proven that the visual, manual, and cognitive attention required for text messaging makes it the most dangerous driving distraction. How likely is it that you or your employees could be included in the following statistics and facts below?

  • Drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
  • Approximately 660,000 drivers across the country are using cell phones or using electronic devices while driving at any given moment every day.
  • Engaging in phone and portable device-related tasks such as reaching for, dialing, or scrolling triples the risk of an accident.
  • Drivers’ eyes are off the road an average five seconds while texting. While moving at a speed of 55 mph, that’s driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
  • Research shows that use of hands-free devices is not substantially safer than use of hand-held devices.
Curbing driving distractions

We highly recommend employers create a formal written policy for employees’ use of mobile devices while driving. This policy should apply to everyone who drives a vehicle for work purposes. Please view the National Safety Council’s brief video on protecting employees below.

Your organization’s safe driving policies should be communicated repeatedly and employees who drive should acknowledge in writing that they have read it and will comply. Managers should lead by example and postpone conversations with employees until they are safely parked. Consider putting in place a program that monitors and rewards employees for practicing safe driving behavior.

Every year, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety offers a free toolkit for businesses that want to raise employee awareness about traffic safety issues and discourage distracted driving. The National Safety Council also offers employers a free downloadable toolkit to help communicate to their workers the importance of safe driving and reducing risky driving behaviors.

Sources:
  • www.distraction.gov
  • Elise Ackerman, “Research Reveals Danger of Texting While Driving with Google Glass,” forbes.com. 29 Sept. 2014.
  • “Four Steps to Help Keep Employee Drivers Distraction-Free,” www.wsj.com. 10 Apr. 2014.
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