To prevent distracted driving crashes among workers and reduce the related costs to employers, Drive Safely Work Week is being observed through Oct. 7. The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety in partnership with the Department of Transportation sponsors the annual campaign to "help combat the epidemic of distracted driving."
One piece of advice concerns the enforcement of policies regarding mobile devices.
While many companies may have such policies, they are only effective if employers "walk the (no) talking." Lack of management commitment was the number one reason survey respondents gave for difficulty in sustaining the policy, NETS said.
Types of driver distraction are visual, manual (taking your hands off the wheel), and cognitive (taking your mind away from the task at hand). NETS cites statistics showing that:
- Drivers who are texting take their eyes off the road 400 percent more than when they are not texting.
- Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.
- More texting leads to more crashes. With each additional 1 million text messages, fatalities of distracted driving rose more than 75 percent.
Employers are encouraged to educate employees about the facts surrounding distracted driving and provide suggestions to prevent crashes. Stow your phone, silence your mobile device and store it in the glove box, and consider using a call-blocking application to let callers know you are driving and to queue calls and texts until you are safely pulled over are among the suggestions.
This year's campaign puts the onus on passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists as well as drivers. For example, employees traveling as passengers are encouraged to do the following to foster safer driving:
- Be the designated call taker, call maker, or texter. If you are making your own calls, speak in a moderate tone of voice and don't become involved in long, drawn-out conversations that could distract the driver.
- If the driver is not focusing entirely on the road, don't be afraid to speak up! You're looking out for your own safety, as well as that of the driver and those sharing the road with you.
- If the driver is trying to look to the right, turn your head and lean back so he has a clear view or you can look yourself and inform the driver.
- If driving in an unfamiliar area, allow the driver to focus on the road while you stay alert for road signs or other landmarks.
- Don't engage the driver in conversations that are heated or emotional in nature.
- Alert the driver to any dangers he may miss, but don't be a backseat driver.
Conversation between the driver and passenger is safer than having the driver talk on a cell phone, according to the organization. "The surrounding traffic becomes a topic of the conversation, helping the driver and passenger to share situation awareness, and mitigating the potential effects of conversation on driving."
Pedestrians may contribute to traffic accidents when they are distracted, NETS said. They are advised to keep their heads up, rather than texting or browsing e-mail while approaching or going through intersections. Walking defensively by surveying the environment at intersections even when they have the light is urged since drivers may fail to yield the right-of-way while turning.
The increased presence of hybrid-electric vehicles can be a cause of accidents involving unaware pedestrians since these cars are virtually silent at low speeds. Walkers should be especially alert when walking through parking lots.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
September 30, 2011
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