January 2017 Safety Coach: Earn an ‘A’ for Focusing on the Four D’s of Impaired Driving

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Nearly 10 people die every day in crashes on Texas roads. Nearly one-third of those deaths involve a driver who is under the influence of alcohol.

The impact of deadly crashes is felt not only by family members of victims but also by Texas employers. Employers absorb the brunt of costs associated with crashes whether they occur on or off the job.

Nationwide, employers spend more than $6 billion annually on alcohol-involved crashes, according to a report from the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety. And crashes cost employers more than 1.6 million work days each year.

Lost work days = lost production.

What employers need to know is impaired driving is not isolated to alcohol. True, impairment begins with the first drink. True, mental faculties such as judgment are the first to be diminished. This can make it difficult for a driver to reason and respond in an emergency situation.

It is also true taking over-the-counter or prescription medications can put drivers at risk. Safe driving requires comprehension, concentration, coordination and quick reflexes. Drugs (including marijuana) affect all of these skills.

Employers are positioned to be key players in changing driver behavior through efforts in promoting traffic safety. And it is in their best interest to do so because they can save money and save lives.

In 2015, there were 13,616 injury crashes in Texas with 17,011 people sustaining a serious injury, according to data from the Texas Department of Transportation. While many of these injuries are sustained in incidents that occur during the work day or during a driver’s commute to-and-from work, the majority of crashes are of the “off-the-clock” and “off-the-job” variety.

Employers still pay through costs associated with employee benefits, from insurance premiums to workers’ compensation claims. The ideal to share with your employees: An impaired driver is a dangerous driver. And, to earn an “A” on your report card, focus on the “four D’s” – drunk, drugged, drowsy and distracted driving. Let us help with free resources:

Tailgate Talk

Risks of Distraction Weigh Heavily on Your Bottom Line

About 1 in 5 crashes in Texas involves distraction – a form of impaired driving.
Gather your employees for a quick Tailgate Talk and ask: How do you define distracted driving?

When folks are done shouting out their own ideas, share this answer from our Safety Coach cards: Distraction occurs any time you take your:

  • Eyes off the road
  • Hands off the wheel
  • Mind off your primary task, driving safely

Chances are you know somebody who engages in personal grooming while behind the wheel. Or regularly reaches for something to eat. Or manipulates dashboard controls as part of the process of programming a GPS device. All are risky driving behaviors.

Often, drivers who take risks and arrive at their destinations without incident cling to a false belief that they are better drivers than others around them on the road. The reality is they are lucky unsafe drivers.

In 2015, there were 105,783 crashes in Texas that involved distracted driving, up 9.5% from 2014, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Cell phone use and driver inattention were cited in 396 fatal crashes, 2,324 incapacitating crashes and 10,191 non-incapacitating crashes.

Texas A&M Transportation Institute research indicates reaction times double when drivers are distracted by text messaging. Hands-free technologies often put drivers in a state of cognitive distraction. Potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist for as long as 27 seconds after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Inattention blindness can cause drivers to miss up to half the information in their driving environment. Our resources are created to help you help others regain their focus:

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October 2016 Newsletter: Let Us Help Reduce Your Risks, Manage Your Operating Costs

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Our Driving Concern Program Manager Lisa Robinson speaks to issues and concerns all employers face when trying to make their workforce safe on the road:

You have heard it said before: Work smarter, not harder.

Q: How do I do that? And how is traffic safety part of the answer?

A: This is something I talk about at various conferences around the state. In theseOdds of Dying CTA - Poisoning difficult economic times, I am hearing from employers that are making cuts in the area of safety. This is concerning to me. I realize why this is happening as it is not always easy to see the value when you invest in safety like you would with additional sales. Company leaders focus on profit and generating revenue – and rightfully so – but sometimes become caught up in their day-to-day operational duties. As a result, they tend to overlook the impact of safety on their bottom line.

And I have come to the realization traffic safety is not always on a company’s radar until it is too late. One of the best ways to keep operating expenses low is to reduce risk. Driving – whether it is on the job, during a commute to-and-from the workplace or simply on a trip for groceries – is one of the riskiest activities your employees engage in on a daily basis.

Continue reading October 2016 Newsletter: Let Us Help Reduce Your Risks, Manage Your Operating Costs

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August 2016 Safety Coach: Billion Dollar Question, ‘Are Your Employees Buckled Up?’

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When it comes to buckling up, Americans still lag behind residents of many other high-income countries.Three Big Risks for Truck Driver Safety Snip-2

In America, front seat belt usage was pegged at 87% in a Vital Signs report issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July. And that put the U.S. below the average of 19 high-income countries (94%) and well below leader France (99%).

In Texas, the ramifications of the report are huge for employers, who brunt the lion’s share of costs associated with crashes whether they occur on or off the job. Texas employers spend about $3.4 billion every year on crash injuries and fatalities. And the cost of not buckling up accounts for a big part of that expense.

Continue reading August 2016 Safety Coach: Billion Dollar Question, ‘Are Your Employees Buckled Up?’

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Employers the Driving Force Behind Cell Phone Behavioral Change

Before Toledo-based Owens Corning implemented a cell phone distracted driving policy, the company’s leader conducted a field test.

Deborah Trombley
Deborah Trombley

Chairman and CEO Mike Thaman wanted to know whether enacting such a policy would impact productivity.

“He (Thaman) actually went for 90 days adhering to what would become our policy for all employees – no cell phone use, handheld or hands-free (while driving),” said Owens Corning spokesman Matt Schroder. “That he could do that without it affecting his productivity became a key factor in the messaging to employees during the implementation.”

Schroder’s remarks are highlighted in a case study conducted by the National Safety Council. The study shows how Owens Corning’s safety culture values were advanced by adopting a best-practice cell phone policy. At the same time, no loss in productivity was observed at a manufacturing company with 15,000 employees spread across the globe.

At Owens Corning, teams of employees developed their own objectives to assist in compliance and to ensure workload goals were met. This group effort epitomizes how the best safety companies push toward a vision of zero job injuries regardless of whether employees are stocking shelves or logging countless hours behind the wheel.

Just as employers took the lead in promoting safety belt use among their employees before laws were passed, oil and gas companies started a cell phone ban movement more than 10 years ago. ExxonMobil passed its policy after an extensive review of cell phone distraction research, concluding in 2004 that driving while using cell phones didn’t mesh with its safety culture.

Soon, many more Fortune 500 companies followed suit, forbidding handheld and hands-free devices.

Still, most people today are unaware of the distractions associated with hands-free and voice control features. According to a NSC poll, 80% of Americans believe that hands-free devices are safer than handheld, and 53% believe that voice control features are safe because they’re provided in vehicles. How can people make an educated choice when they don’t know crucial safety information?

Research indicates drivers using handheld and hands-free phones only see about 50% of all the information in their driving environment. It’s called, “inattention blindness.”

Potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist long after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands. In short, communication that doesn’t help you drive doesn’t need to be done while you are driving. Owens Corning used a Cell Phone Policy Kit offered by NSC as a basis to build its plan and reduce this distraction.

Distracted driving is one reason why vehicle crashes remain the #1 cause of workplace death. More than 3,000 people were killed on U.S. roadways in 2014 in crashes involving distracted drivers, according to Distraction.Gov. Another 431,000 were injured.

In 2013, the cost of crashes to U.S. employers was $47.44 billion, according to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety.  Of that total, $25.17 billion went for on-the-job crashes and $22.27 billion for off-the-job crashes.

Either way, employers pick up the tab. NETS reported crashes cost employers 1.628 million work days.

Employers can recoup those losses by addressing traffic safety concerns. Said another way: If you practice electrical safety on the job, why not practice safe driving behaviors, too?

All corporations are responsible for creating safe work environments for their employees. Few raise the bar higher than Owens Corning or the NAFA Fleet Management Association. NAFA extended an invitation to its members to sign a written pledge stating they will abide by the company’s zero-tolerance cell phone expectations at its Institute & Expo in April 2016.

Adopting – or strengthening – a cell phone policy is one way employers can address real or perceived pressure employees feel to be in constant communication with clients or colleagues while on the job.

Already, these policies have proven good for people and good for business. Employers without an enforced ban on cell phones are putting their companies at financial risk. Juries across America have reacted strongly in distracted driving cases, awarding plaintiffs very large damage amounts.

A jury in Arkansas found a lumber distributor liable when a salesperson rear-ended another car while talking on a cell phone. One individual was seriously injured. The verdict: $16.1 million.

“Go straight to the top, to the CEO, and get alignment in the organization,” is the advice Owens Corning shares on how to start the implementation process.

Employers are driving the cell phone abstinence philosophy by saying it’s time to bring safety and sanity back to our roads. This message is important to share because behaviors learned in the workplace often are mimicked at home.

Emails, text, voice messages and social media can wait until your vehicle is parked. None of them are worth putting your life – or the lives of others – in jeopardy.

Deborah Trombley is senior transportation program manager at the National Safety Council

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May 2016 Newsletter: Motorists & Cyclists: Didn’t Your Mother Teach You to Share the Road?

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Our Driving Concern Program Manager Lisa Robinson speaks to issues and concerns all employers face when trying to make their workforce safe on the road:

As the summer months approach, driving habits change and traffic risks change, too. For many employees, day trips, weekend getaways and family vacations become the rule, not the exception.Biker in helmet driving motorcycle at sunset.

During this time, safety professionals focus much of their attention on the four D’s of impaired driving – drunk, drugged, distracted and drowsy. Yet, questions invariably crop up involving motorcycle safety issues and motorist awareness.

Q: How do I speak effectively with my workforce about sharing the road? How often is it said by a motorist involved in a fatal crash, “I didn’t see that cyclist until it was too late?” Or how often do you hear a co-worker complaining about a cyclist weaving in and out of traffic or riding between the lanes on the freeway? Or muttering over an antsy cyclist tailgating during rush hour congestion?

Continue reading May 2016 Newsletter: Motorists & Cyclists: Didn’t Your Mother Teach You to Share the Road?

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April 2016 Newsletter: Deliver a Consistent Traffic Safety Message to Young & Old Alike

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Our Driving Concern Program Manager Lisa Robinson speaks to issues and concerns all Texas employers face when trying to make their workforce safe on the road:

Question: How often should I discuss traffic safety with my employees? Do I focus my attention on new, less-seasoned employees and drivers? Or more experienced members of my workforce?

Houston Fwy traffic 10 Interstate in Texas USA US
Houston freeway traffic

Answer: Those are great questions and really are the key to developing an effective messaging plan. To find answers, let’s start with this: Working to reinforce positive driving behaviors and to promote a culture of traffic safety are ideals that are increasingly becoming the norm with Texas employers.  Messages should be all-inclusive, recognizing that everyone on occasion can benefit from a refresher on how to safely navigate through intersections or an introduction to backing basics as well as company policies related to backing up. Backing up is one issue most of the employers I have visited with seem to share a concern about.

Let’s look at Texas Department of Transportation statistics: Taking individuals ranging from age 19 to 33, data shows an average of 124.3 drivers were involved in fatal crashes for each age group in 2014. At age 20, the number of drivers in incapacitating injury crashes topped out at 690. For those between the ages of 40-55, the average number of drivers in fatal crashes was 76.6. Lower, but still significant. Still tragic.

Continue reading April 2016 Newsletter: Deliver a Consistent Traffic Safety Message to Young & Old Alike

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