A two-second task is one of the least expensive and most effective ways for Texas employers to reduce costs associated with crashes. By promoting seat belt use, you save lives and you save money. In 2016, 43.7% of people killed on state roads were not restrained when the fatal crash occurred, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. One, two: buckle your …
This message rings loud and clear in a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association — Drug-Impaired Driving: A Guide for States. GHSA said drugs were found in 43% of drivers tested in fatal crashes vs. 37% in alcohol-involved fatal crashes.
What you need to know is drugs – including the over-the-counter variety and prescription medications – can impact your employees’ ability to work and can impact your bottom line. In the case of driving, drugs can compromise concentration, judgment and reaction time.
In Texas, there were 3,337 crashes involving drivers under the influence of drugs in 2015, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. A closer look at the data indicates there were 222 fatal drug crashes, 289 crashes involving incapacitating injuries and 611 crashes involving non-incapacitating injuries.
What’s the cost to a Texas employer? The National Safety Council has created a tool for you to use and find the answer: Substance Use Cost Calculator for Employers. It’s free and it’s easy to use. You plug in your workplace location, the type of business or industry you are in and the number of employees in your organization.
With that information, a report is generated that you can present to your executive leadership team. At your workplace, you may want to expand drug testing panels to include commonly prescribed medications. Further, you can protect your employees, your organization and your community by working to promote traffic safety and drawing attention to drugged-impaired driving.
- Learn about Bill: He was injured at work, overdosed at home.
- Print and post: Impaired Drivers Are Dangerous Drivers
- Attend: Drugged Driving in Texas: Trends, Public Opinion and Enforcement
Prescription Drugs Can Put You at Risk Behind the Wheel
Can you identify four common workplace risks associated with prescription painkiller use? How about your employees? While you are out in the field, pull your team together and share these answers from Painkillers on the Job at your next Tailgate Talk.
Taking prescription drugs can lead to risks for those:
- Driving vehicles (commuting to-and-from work or while on the job)
- Operating machinery/equipment
- Making critical assessments
- Handling tasks that require focus and concentration (pace diminishes and productivity declines)
One study indicated enough prescription painkillers were provided in 2010 to medicate every American around the clock for an entire month. So, at any given time, some of your employees may be using prescription drugs and may be subject to these risks.
Next, talk about The Two Faces of Prescription Drugs. Yes, prescription medications are helpful taken in the right doses, at the right times, and when users are aware of potential side effects.
What is the flip side? Taking prescription drugs for long periods of time can lead to:
- Addiction, especially to pain medication
- Abuse, particularly with pain medications and when drugs falls into the wrong hands
Every day, 60 people die from opioid pain medications, according to research from the National Safety Council. Just as alarming: 70% of people who have abused prescription painkillers reported getting them from friends or relatives.
Watch: The story of an Oklahoma Wonder Woman who “coded” twice after being hit head-on by a drugged driver and recently celebrated her third “re-birthday.”
NSC provides a free kit you can download to Make Your Workplace Opioid Free.
Buckle your seat belt, wash your hands. These are examples of healthy habits that easily can be accomplished is less than one minute. You don’t think much about either one because you are in the habit of doing both.
Q: Have you thought about incorporating traffic safety into your regular workplace safety culture in a similar fashion? By making traffic safety a habit?
A: No? Why not? You can reduce risks, prevent injuries and save lives at your organization through your educational efforts. Make it a habit to talk about traffic safety. You don’t have to talk forever. Often, one or two minutes will do. Just make your efforts consistent and ongoing. Include non-verbal messaging, too. Hang posters in the breakroom and on bulletin boards. Affix window-clings in your company vehicles and place our Toilet Tabloids in your bathrooms.
Nationwide, the number of pedestrians killed is estimated to have increased by 11% in 2016, according to a report produced by the Governors Highway Safety Association. GHSA data shows 10 states and the District of Columbia had pedestrian fatality rates greater than 2.0 (per 100,000 population) in 2015, including Texas.
In 4 of the 10 largest cities in America, GHSA said pedestrian fatalities inched higher, including Houston (60 to 62) and Dallas (41 to 56).
When you next talk about distracted driving with your employees, try a new approach. Think of driver distraction in a global sense. And think of breaking from the norm. Think of empowering you employees to hold co-workers accountable. Encourage them to speak up and say something to their co-worker, especially when the co-worker’s choice is one that puts them or others in harm’s way.
Q: What types of things distract drivers?
A: Newspapers spread over the dash and audio books. Yes. Personal grooming, including applying mascara and brushing teeth while behind the wheel. You bet. Social media, including Facebook and the streaming of videos. Yep. Hot coffee, messy burgers. Yikes! Anything that takes your attention away from focusing on the road is a distraction.
If you ever have wondered why people say nothing good happens late at night, consider this:
In Texas, more fatal crashes occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. than at any other time of the day. What about crash frequency during the week? Or in a given month of the year?
Can you guess the three deadliest days on state roads? If you guessed Friday, Saturday and Sunday, you would be correct and you probably would not be surprised. But did you know the month of March is full of madness?
To be clear, this has nothing to do with a crazy finish to an even crazier basketball game. Rather, it has everything to do with spring break and the three leading causes of traffic fatalities – alcohol, distraction and speeding. I see the light bulb going off as you process this information.
For more than 30 years, comedian David Letterman entertained late-night TV audiences with his Top Ten lists. He poked fun at everybody and everything. And rare was the occasion when viewers didn’t crack a smile.
For Letterman, the zany antics began with his “Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme with Peas” in September 1985. For me, a top 10 list is a more grounded tool I roll out on occasion when speaking to groups about traffic safety. I use a Letterman-style reverse countdown to highlight why a back-to-basics approach often is best.
Q: Will I catch anyone laughing during one of my talks?
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:
- Learn: How to Promote Sober Driving
- Post: No Clowning Around
- Watch: Bobbing is for Apples, Not for Drivers
Risks of Distraction Weigh Heavily on Your Bottom Line
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:
Drivers who miss 1-2 hours of sleep nearly double their risk for crash, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. So, not only are some drivers impaired by alcohol and others distracted by smartphone technology, still others are physically unable to focus on the task at hand because they are nodding off while behind the wheel.
This is important to recognize because you want to protect yourself, your loved ones and others around you on the road by staying alert and ready to respond at a moment’s notice. You never know if/when the guy next to you is going to inch into your lane or if you are about to encounter some type of unexpected hazard (such as debris in the road).