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April 2017 Newsletter: Flip the Conversation: Speak Up When Others Around You Are Distracted

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:

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.

What happens to almost all of us is we get trapped in our daily routines. If one of those routines involves catching up with friends and colleagues on the phone while you are driving, you are putting yourself and others in danger. Cell phones are a leading cause of driver distraction. Hands-free devices are not risk-free because your brain remains distracted long after you’ve finished using voice commands. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates mental distraction can persist for up to 27 seconds.

Think of what you might miss during that time. A stop sign? A pedestrian? The roadway is an extension of the workplace. In April, during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, help draw attention to this epidemic. In Texas, more than 100,000 crashes are linked to distraction every year. Nationally, more than 3,000 people die every year in distracted driving incidents.

Employers bear the brunt of crash costs whether incidents occur on or off the job. In fact, more than 80% of employer fringe benefits costs are linked to off-the-job behaviors, including crashes involving employee family members. At your workplace, you can drive behavior change by looking at distraction in a new light. Share these suggestions with your employees:

  • Get up 10 minutes early, attend to personal grooming, eat breakfast and drink your coffee before you hit the road
  • In your vehicle, put your phone in a safe and secure place, well out of reach

The idea is to break from routine. City and state laws are changing with regard to cell phone bans. Texting while driving is prohibited in many places. Are you changing? Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? Many employers have enacted safe driving policies to protect their employees and protect themselves from liability in the event of a crash. Does your workplace have a policy?

Having an employee safe driving policy is something that is very clear for your employees to understand. It is very important for employees to know what your expectations are, the rules to follow and the consequences of breaking the rules.

Let Us Help: Sample Safe Driving Policy. Webinar: Driving Distraction-Free and Defensively.

Nobody wants to be called to a crash scene. Flip the conversation. If it’s “not me” engaging in risky behavior behind the wheel, then who is it making up those crash numbers? Raise the point any driver could do something unexpected at any moment. Ask: Do you trust the guy or gal in the lane next to you?

No? Then, put the phone away so you can respond to risks other drivers take. If not you, it could be a family member driving/riding in the lane next to someone or on the roadway someone making risky choices. We are part of the solution.

You Asked & I Delivered: E-Learning Will Make Traffic Safety Training Easy

Our Driving Concern Program Manager Lisa Robinson talks constantly with Texas employers. One of her questions: What tools and resources do you need to make traffic safety a regular part of your workplace safety culture?

She has learned, “Employers want a variety of ways to reach their employees. Employer needs are unique — but all like online learning as one option.”

And she delivers the goods through the Our Driving Concern program.

For example, online learning. Two of our new e-Learning modules debut this month on the Our Driving Concern website. These interactive five-minute lessons on distracted driving and drowsy driving are fully compatible with your mobile device. So, they are good for use anytime, anywhere.

In the distracted driving intro, you will learn about a surprising rising. Later, you’ll meet Babblin’ Betsy. Finally, you’ll watch “Calls Kill” – a brief video – and take the Myth of Multi-Tasking test. Four more modules are on their way: Aggressive Driving, Impaired Driving, Passenger Restraint and What Employers Can Do.

One employer has shared with me plans to use e-Learning in team meetings. Think outside the box on how to use the tools in your toolbox.

San Antonio Traffic Safety Efforts Lead to Reductions in DUI & DWI

Here is an employer story that I want to share with you — the City of San Antonio. The City is a leader and an employer that others can look to as an example to emulate.

In 2015, 27% of all deaths on Texas roads occurred in crashes where a driver was under the influence of alcohol, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. A number of groups and organizations are working to solve the problem of drunk and drugged driving, including the City of San Antonio.

The City has 12,000 employees and a fleet pool of about 4,150 vehicles. All of its drivers undergo training through a safety program that identifies driver roles and responsibilities. Supervisors and managers receive reasonable suspicion training. And, in March 2016, primary drivers were added to a random drug and alcohol testing program. (CDL drivers have to submit to random testing in accordance with federal law).

Since 2002, City of San Antonio staff members have conducted 43 National Safety Council-sanctioned defensive driving courses and two NSC professional truck driving classes. “We have one instructor who has trained over 10,000 people himself,” said Office of Risk Management safety supervisor Bart Bird.

As a result of its efforts, the City of San Antonio has recognized reductions in DUI/DWI incidents (2% reduction) and suspended driver’s license cases (3% reduction). Bird was on hand to accept the City of San Antonio’s plaque during a ceremony to recognize the Our Driving Concern Texas Employer Traffic Safety Award recipients in March at the Fort Worth Convention Center.

He said San Antonio’s City Manager gave department heads a goal of zero preventable vehicle incidents by 2019.

“Our fiscal year goal is to have no more than 279 preventable collisions (down from a high of 461 in FY16),” Bird said. “At the end of FY17 Q1, we are achieving our goal.”

Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you agree? What is happening elsewhere?

What can you do at your workplace?

‘I Heard Employees … They Modified Their Own Aggressive Driving Habits’

Here is another shining example of an employer making transportation safety a priority.

At MATCOR’s location in Houston, Rebecca Haring sees to it that everyone does everything they can to hold up the company’s three core principles: “We respect others, we honor our commitments and we act in a safe and responsible way.”

She serves as the company’s safety and compliance manager and works with her staff to produce weekly safety meetings. During each meeting, Haring said at least one driving-related topic is reviewed. She attended a train-the-trainer workshop put on by the Our Driving Concern Texas Employer Traffic Safety Program and took back tools to make her job promoting traffic safety easier.

“I heard employees talking to each other following the training session about how they recognized – and modified – their own aggressive driving habits as soon as the night of the training,” she said. “Just hearing the discussion showed me that the training had an impact.”

Haring said she has spoken with staff members about risks involved with distracted driving and speeding/aggressive driving. And she has made use of a number of Our Driving Concern resources, including a flash drive loaded with a teaching curriculum and Toilet Tabloids posters printed off the program’s website.

“My company conducts an annual Stand Down,” Haring said. “Several participants came to me after (hearing) the modules from Our Driving Concern (presented) and said it was probably the best training they’ve had in years. They expressed that it was engaging, informative and fun. I never get feedback that safety training is fun. A couple of participants asked for materials to take and share with their families.”

MATCOR, a Brand Energy & Infrastructure Services company, employs 122 people at four locations. Employees include commercial and non-commercial drivers.

Tell Us: Do you have a traffic safety success story? I truly want to hear from you. You can email me or Ron Kremer, who works with me on our eNewsletters. Email: or

Workplace Steps to Prevent Drowsy Driving Incidents

I recently attended a conference on fatigue and found it interesting that NASA has been researching fatigue since 1993. Fatigue and drowsy driving both can impact an employer and, if it is not on your radar, it should be.

Fatigue is described as “The Silent Killer” in an animated video produced by the National Safety Council. Watch and share this ideal at your workplace: If You’re Aware of it, Take Care of It.”

Nearly 83.6 million sleep-deprived Americans can be found on a typical day in the workplace, at school and on the road, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The consequences can be deadly. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows more than 5,000 people died in drowsy driving crashes in 2015.

According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 25 adult drivers (age 18 or older) reported falling asleep while driving in the 30 days before they were questioned.

Do you know any of them? Take steps at your workplace to prevent incidents. Start by recognizing drowsy driving risk factors, including these five highlighted by the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Driving on less than seven hours of sleep
  • Driving at a time when usually sleeping, such as at night
  • Traveling frequently through different time zones
  • Having an untreated sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea
  • Working multiple shifts or night shifts

Three more ways for you to protect employees and protect your bottom line:

Wash Away Driving Hazards During Spring Cleaning

Can’t see out the windshield because it is raining buckets and your wipers are worn?

Take this bit of friendly advice from AARP and share it with your workforce: Spring showers and flowers often are joined by a handful of seasonal driving hazards. Employers can save money and save lives by reducing traffic incidents.
During the spring, review these tips from AARP to reduce the risk of hazards:

  1. Avoid driving through large puddles: Driving through water can impair your brakes, cloud your vision and cause you to hydroplane. Wet pavement accounted for 73% of weather-related crashes from 2005-2014, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
  2. Share the road: Just as humans come out of hibernation following the winter months, so too are animals more active. Be on the lookout, particularly at dawn and dusk. Driving alongside or near motorcyclists and bicyclists can be tricky. Also, watch for pedestrians.
  3. Understand the impact of medications on driving: Seasonal allergies often kick in during springtime. Over-the-counter allergy drugs can have side effects or interact with other medications to diminish your driving ability.

Some safety tips to post on your bulletin board or share via your intranet service:

  • Check your lights: Spring rain hinders visibility
  • Replace your wiper blades: Best to do this at least once a year
  • Check your tire pressure: Winter weather can deflate tires

More driving basics: Out of the Way of Trains

With spring in the air, many people think it is pretty cool to take senior pictures, family pictures and engagement pictures on railroad tracks. Did you know that it is illegal to do just that? Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property. Walking or playing on tracks is not only dangerous, it is prohibited. Trespassers can be arrested and fined – but the ultimate penalty is death.

The ONLY legal, safe place to cross tracks is at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Observe and obey all warning signs and signals.

Operation Lifesaver has a lot of great information.

Who Pays for Distracted Driving? Look in the Mirror, Find the Answer

Employers pay for crashes whether they occur on or off the job. Employees spend hard-earned wages to pay for their own car insurance. Costs continue to rise all the way around, due in no small part to distracted driving. Texas employers spend $3.5 billion every year as a result of on and off the job traffic injuries and fatalities. Yes, that is “billion” — with a capital B.

AAA says 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 driving, impaired driving and drowsy driving to running red lights, speeding and not wearing seat belts. State Farm says 36% of all drivers text and drive, and it’s making everyone’s costs go up, according to a NBC News report.

“Every American is going to pay more because of the distracted driving epidemic,” said Robert Hartwig in the report. Hartwig is co-director of the Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management at the University of South Carolina. “That’s because no fault can be attributed … people who are driving distracted aren’t going to admit to it. So what winds up happening is these costs are imposed on the system overall.”

Read the full report: Your Car Insurance Rates Are Going Up Because Everyone Keeps Texting and Driving. Watch: Gluten Free Texting. Ask: Really?

Make Your Plans to Join Us at the Texas Safety Summit

Come see us at the Texas Safety Summit May 9-11 in Austin. Our Driving Concern Program Manager Lisa Robinson will be talking about traffic safety in the workplace. In addition, our train-the-trainer workshop is on the pre-conference menu. And staff members will be handing out free resources at the Our Driving Concern booth.

The Texas Safety Summit features top safety professionals and is put on the Texas Department of Insurance. You can expect to:

  • Sharpen your skills and get updates on critical issues involving incident prevention from more than 25 breakout sessions on topics such as transportation safety management processes and systems, workplace violence prevention, hazardous materials and communication, Texas workforce trends and regulatory compliance

Your Choice: Will You Be Spending Seis de Mayo Behind Bars?

To create awareness of drunk driving on Cinco de Mayo, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is making campaign materials available so you can participate in a prevention initiative at your workplace.

You also can use our free resources (posters, fact sheets, etc.) and find links to the NHTSA SaferRide app on our website.

About one-third of all vehicle fatalities involve a drunk driver. All of them are preventable. The Texas Department of Transportation has created three video public service announcements you can show during a safety meeting. The Faces of Drunk Driving serve as reminders of the consequences of making poor choices. Use a designated driver.