Every distracted driver represents a potential risk for his or her employer, as businesses can be held legally accountable if an employee causes an accident. In fact, according to a report by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, on average, work-related crashes involving distraction cost employers $72,442 per non-fatal accident and as much as $4.3 billion per year.
Implementing a distracted driving policy
Distracted driving continues to be a key factor in rising commercial auto losses. While highway fatality numbers were down in 2017 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), crashes blamed on distractions accounted for 8.5 percent of those fatalities. To help manage this risk, many businesses are creating distracted driver policies to help their employees keep their attention on the road. But what should such a policy entail? The following tips can help your business develop and implement a policy to reduce distracted driving and the accidents they cause.
- Create clear guidelines.
Discourage distracting activities during driving—such as reading, grooming, and eating—and ban the use of mobile devices. This should apply to both personal and business phones. Supervisors must champion this effort, giving their employees who spend time on the road time and flexibility to return calls or text messages. Better yet, consider asking managers and employees to actively avoid calling coworkers during times they’re normally driving. These guidelines should also describe the reasoning behind your policy and the penalties for violating it. Let employees know you’re serious.
- Inform your employees.
To boost the adoption of your guidelines, the policy should be formally written and disseminated throughout your business. Follow-up reminders should be sent out regularly, and training that highlights the dangers and pitfalls of distracted driving should be mandatory for all workers whose jobs involve driving—or who might have a regular reason to call drivers. Be sure to encourage positive behaviors as well, rewarding and recognizing employees you’ve witnessed adhering to—and reminding others of—these policies.
- Provide support.
Mobile devices aren’t the only causes of distraction. Make sure your employees’ hands and eyes aren’t pulled away from the wheel and the road, by addressing all potential sources of distraction within their vehicles, such as infotainment systems. Help your drivers handle mechanical problems that might distract or endanger them—including poorly maintained wipers or alert lights on dashboards. Also, provide proper storage for work-related equipment and employee personal items that might otherwise spill or roll underfoot while an employee is driving.
- Enforce the rules.
Create a way to check on employees and teams that your policy might heavily apply to, including those who spend significant time on the road—and their supervisors. Make sure vehicle-based employees aren’t being pressured to respond to calls, texts, or email in real time, and that they have enough time in their days for lunch breaks, so they’re not forced to eat meals while behind the wheel. Enforce your rules strictly, with penalties for those who don’t follow them. Create a culture of awareness—as well as a team whose mission it is to observe, enforce, and evaluate your policy as necessary. Managers and supervisors should be held to the same standards.
Prohibit distracting activities during driving—such as reading, grooming, and eating—and ban the use of mobile devices.
Distracted driving is a real danger—to employees, other drivers, and businesses that can be held liable for distracted driving accidents while employees are “on the job”—but it’s also avoidable. By supporting your employees with a straight-forward policy and a culture of safety and awareness, you can reduce their risk and your business’s liability.
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