February 2017 Safety Coach: Don’t Hold Your Breath Waiting for Autonomous Vehicles


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To prepare your workforce for the rollout of partially and fully autonomous vehicles, it would be helpful to share some of what is going on right now in the fast-paced world of motor vehicle development.

Did you know a self-driving 18-wheeler is being tested in San Antonio?

Then, it would be helpful to review some of the safety features that already are commonplace in vehicles on our roads today. It’s a win-win for Texas employers. Traffic safety is one of the best ways to save money and save lives.

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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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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.

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July 2016 Safety Coach: Young Pups Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks and Vice Versa

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In a recent issue of The Prospector, a student publication at the University of Texas El Paso, reporter Christian Vasquez details how “DWI will cost you more than a mug shot.”Going Out Tonight?

Lessons learned by those still in school are applicable to those in the workforce, too.

Impaired driving is the main ingredient in a recipe for roadway disaster. The associated costs run the gamut from fines — which can amount to $17,000 or more — and jail time to crash fatalities and injuries. And, then, there is public humiliation.

“Honestly, you feel like a huge loser, and you feel like a huge disappointment to everyone in your life,” said one UTEP student in recounting the impact after he was arrested for DWI.

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June 2016 Safety Coach: Nothing Simulated about Dangers of Distracted Driving

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Your company cars and trucks are equipped with the latest technology, including dashboard infotainment systems. And you’re thinking it must be safe for employees to use these systems while driving since they came with the vehicle, right?Drive simulator

Wrong.

These systems likely are designed for convenience, but that does not necessarily make them safe. Most people today are unaware of the distractions associated with hands-free and voice control features, including cognitive distraction and inattention blindness.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research indicates mental distractions can persist long after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands. How long? In the time it can take you to pull your brain away from the performance of one of these tasks, you will have covered the length of six football fields in a vehicle traveling at 40 mph.

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Safety Coach March 2016: Despite Growing Concern Over Distracted Driving, Few Take Action

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More than 80% of drivers view distracted driving as a bigger problem now thanThe Problem of Distracted Driving three years ago, according to research released in February by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Yet, 70% of those surveyed by AAA reported talking on a cell phone while driving within the past 30 days.

The numbers indicate many are concerned, but few have changed their ways.

In fact, AAA reports 87% of drivers indicated they have engaged in at least one risky behavior while behind the wheel within the last month, those risky behaviors ranging from distracted, impaired or drowsy driving to running red lights, speeding or not wearing seat belts.

Continue reading Safety Coach March 2016: Despite Growing Concern Over Distracted Driving, Few Take Action

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