President's Order Bans Federal Employees From Texting While Driving
According to the order, such a prohibition will "help save lives, reduce injuries, and set an example for state and local governments, private employers, and individual drivers."
According to a study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, driver inattention -- looking away from the road for more than a few seconds -- is a factor in nearly 80 percent of accidents. The study found that the average driver spent almost five seconds looking at their cell phones while texting and driving. Researchers said that drivers who engaged in texting had a 23 times greater risk of being involved in an accident than drivers who did not text.
Under the order, "texting" or "text messaging" means "reading from or entering data into any handheld or other electronic device, including for the purpose of SMS texting, e-mailing, instant messaging, obtaining navigational information, or engaging in any other form of electronic data retrieval or electronic data." The prohibition applies to vehicles owned or provided by the federal government, as well as privately owned vehicles when the individual is on official government business.
The order also encourages federal contractors and others doing business with the government to adopt and enforce their own policies banning texting while using government vehicles or conducting official business in privately owned vehicles.
State texting laws. Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws that address text messaging by all drivers. Two other states have laws that prohibit teens or other new drivers from texting while driving. The laws differ across states, and according to safety advocate organizations, many have significant shortcomings.
Earlier this year, the National Safety Council called for a total ban on cell phones for individuals who are driving. AAA will work with lawmakers to pass legislation banning text messaging by drivers in all 50 states by 2013, citing strong public support for the laws.
"The new technologies that help us multitask in our everyday lives and increasingly popular social media sites present a hard-to-resist challenge to the typically safe driver," said Tom Frymark, regional president for AAA. "Enacting texting bans for drivers in all 50 states can halt the spread of this dangerous practice among motorists nationwide and is a key legislative priority for AAA in state capitols."
The Ford Motor Co. has also initiated contact with lawmakers to push for a nationwide ban. According to the company's recent survey, 86 percent of drivers thought texting while driving was "very dangerous," and 93 percent supported a nationwide ban on texting.
Address driving distractions.
Texting isn't the only thing taking drivers' eyes off the roads. Distracted driving is a factor in 25 to 30 percent of all traffic crashes, which result in more than 2,000 work-related fatalities annually. With hectic schedules and traffic, many employees feel pressured to multitask just to keep up with their personal and work responsibilities.
At the Department of Transportation's recent Distracted Driving Summit in Washington, D.C., the American Society of Safety Engineers said that only focusing on electronic devices for distracted driving can be unfortunate since the same safety risks hold true for anyone who drives in an unsafe manner while eating, drinking, reading, operating any other electronic device, or some other type of distracting activity where the driver's mind, eyes and hands are not engaged on the road ahead.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employers can target unsafe driving practices by:
- Developing written policies and procedures. A written statement emphasizing the commitment to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries is essential to a successful program. Create a clear, comprehensive and enforceable set of traffic safety policies and communicate them to all employees.
- Establishing driver agreements. Establish a contract with all employees who drive for work purposes, whether they drive assigned company vehicles or drive their personal vehicles. By signing an agreement, the driver acknowledges awareness and understanding of the organization's traffic safety policies, procedures and expectations regarding driver performance, vehicle maintenance, and reporting of moving violations.
- Checking drivers' records. Check the driving records of all employees who drive for work purposes. You must screen out drivers who have poor driving records since they are most likely to cause problems.
- Providing comprehensive training. Provide continuous driver safety training and communication to employees. It is easy to become complacent and not think about the consequences of driving habits.
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November 9, 2009
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