Post written by Bart Rahe
Perhaps the legendary rock and roll band, The Doors, said it best, “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.”
Driver distractions or inattentive driving play a part in one out of every four motor vehicle crashes. That is more than 1.5 million collisions a year and 4,300 crashes daily, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Text messaging, changing radio stations, even turning around to talk to passengers can prove deadly.
While cellphones and text messaging cause the most accidents, drivers are also distracted by using PDAs, laptops and navigational aids while driving. Other drivers create a potential hazard because they eat, drink, read, write or groom themselves when their full attention should be on the road in front of them.
In January 2010, the National Safety Council (NSC) released a report estimating that at least 1.6 million crashes in the U.S. (28 percent of all crashes) are caused each year by drivers talking on cellphones (1.4 million crashes) and by texting (200,000 crashes). The estimate is based on data of driver cellphone use from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and research that quantifies the risks using cellphones and texting while driving.
A July 2009 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study found that texting while driving is far more dangerous than previously estimated. The collision risk became 23 times more likely to occur when motorists were texting while driving. Consequently, 44 states plus the District of Columbia ban text messaging for all drivers. Only Arizona, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas do not.
In addition, as of November 2014,14 states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia) plus the District of Columbia, ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving.
Employers May Be Held Liable
Employers should know that they can be held liable for accidents caused by their employees while driving and conducting work-related conversations on cellphones. Under the doctrine of vicarious responsibility, employers may be held legally accountable for the negligent acts of employees committed in the course of employment, whether in the employer’s or employee’s vehicle. Employers may also be found negligent if they fail to put in place a policy for the safe use of cellphones.
Therefore, to protect your business, your employees and your reputation, the following safety precautions should be part of an your fleet / driver safety policy and training:
- No Texting While Driving – period
Texting while driving should never be allowed.
- Pull Off the Road
Don’t drive while calling or texting; pull off the road to a safe location.
- Use Speed Dialing
Program frequently called numbers and your local emergency number into the speed dial feature of your phone for easy, one-touch dialing. When available, use auto answer or voice-activated dialing.
- Never Dial While Driving
If you must dial manually, do so only when stopped. Pull off the road, or better yet, have a passenger dial for you.
- Take a Message
Let your voice mail pick up your calls in tricky driving situations. It’s easy—and safer—to retrieve your messages later.
- Know When to Stop Talking
Keep conversations on the phone and in the car brief so you can concentrate on your driving. If a long discussion is required, if the topic is stressful or emotional, or if driving becomes hazardous, end your conversation and continue it once you are off the road.
- Keep the Phone in Its Holder
Make sure your phone is securely in its holder when you are not using it so it does not pop out and distract you when you are driving.
- Don’t Take Notes While Driving
If you need to write something down, use a tape recorder or pull off the road.
- Don’t Eat or Drink While Driving
Spills, both hot and cold, can easily cause an accident. If you have to stop short, you could also be severely burned.
- Groom Yourself At Home
Shaving, putting on makeup, combing your hair or other forms of preening are distractions and should be done at home, not while driving.