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December 2017 Newsletter: Mistletoe Magic: Kiss Your Best Friend, Not Your Life Away

Ho, Ho! Oh, No! ‘None of This Had to Happen,’ Says Dad of Paralyzed Girl

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

Q: How do you remind employees about risks associated with drinking and driving during the upcoming holiday season without sounding like the Grinch?

A: Put a name to a face. You do not have to look far to find someone who has been impacted by a crash.

The Texas Department of Transportation’s Faces of Drunk Driving campaign includes a YouTube video telling the story of how Chilli Vásquez’s life was altered. A drunk driver in a stolen pickup speeding the wrong way down a Fort Worth street slammed head-on into the vehicle she was riding in after she had a haircut and manicure.

The driver, Jeremy Solis, was convicted and sent to jail for 10 years. Chilli ended up in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down.

“None of this had to happen,” her father says in the TxDOT video. “He shouldn’t have been where he was, but there he was …”

After spending 105 days in the hospital, Chilli went home. She said, “I wondered, ‘Did he think about us and what he caused us?’ ”

Last year, more than one-quarter of traffic fatalities in Texas were the result of alcohol-related incidents. Sometimes, it helps to look at faces and hear voices of victims. All of them are moms and dads, sons and daughters, just like Chilli. You cannot put a price on the loss of human life. But employers pay for off-the-job incidents through everything from inflated insurance premiums to increased workers’ compensation benefits.

Impaired driving leads to clouded judgment, compromised coordination and delayed reaction time behind the wheel. And impairment begins with the first drink. Post safety reminders on a bulletin board or share via your workplace intranet:

  • Plan transportation before you go anywhere alcohol will be served
  • Appoint a designated driver
  • Call a taxi or use a ride-share service

Need more help? Take one of our tailgate talks with you out in the field:

Last December, 66 people were killed on Texas roads in alcohol-related crashes. Twenty-five of those deaths occurred during the period from Dec. 21-31. Share these posters: Santa and Reindeer.

We don’t want those faces to be yours or those of your loved ones, co-workers, employees or others that you care about. Take the time to make transportation safety a part of your company’s safety culture.

Coming in ’18: Free Drug Impairment Training for Texas Employers

Make plans now to attend Drug Impairment Training for Texas Employers (DITTE). This training is provided free from Our Driving Concern through a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation.

Training participants can expect to learn how to:

  • Identify the signs and symptoms of impairment, including alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drugs
  • Educate their employees on traffic safety to help reduce the number of alcohol- and drug-related injuries and fatalities on Texas roads
  • Develop (or improve) company drug policies, programs and practices

To learn more, contact Our Driving Concern Program Coordinator and Master Trainer Cindy Leonard. Or register for upcoming events:

Find the full list of upcoming DITTE trainings.

Alive at 25: Host Free Training, Help Young Drivers Steer Clear of Risks

Teen drivers of your employees are important to your bottom line. We have something free for a select number of Texas employers – Alive at 25®. This new pilot training program addresses risky driving behaviors and the cost of crashes incurred by young and inexperienced drivers.

These crashes can involve your younger employees or children of your employees. Either way, they cost you money. What else should you know? In the U.S., about 30 teens are injured in motor vehicle crashes involving an inexperienced driver every hour. Each day, seven will die in those collisions.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for young adults, and the numbers are climbing. Teen drivers are nearly three times more likely than drivers over the age of 20 to be in a fatal crash.

Do you have a large number of employees who have children 15-and-older and/or a large number of employees that are under 25? Alive at 25® is an interactive program designed to teach young adults how to make safe, respectful and legal driving decisions.

Young drivers learn how to take control of situations by taking personal responsibility for their own actions, attitudes and driving behaviors. This type of training typically is ordered once someone receives a traffic ticket. We want to equip those under 25 with training so they don’t go down that road.

So, this is your chance to be of the solution. We are looking for Texas employers to host training workshops for children of their employees and/or for employees that are 25-and-under. For information or to set up free training, contact Our Driving Concern Program Coordinator and Master Trainer Cindy Leonard:

Calling out the Boss: Report Indicates Employers Contribute to Distraction

An article published in the Houston Chronicle paints a picture of how employers may be contributing to distracted driving in Texas and all across the Southern states.

Andrea Rumbaugh reports 49% of respondents who drive in the South and in Texas answer or make work-related communications while driving, according to a survey conducted on behalf of Travelers Cos. Twenty-eight percent said their boss has called or texted them while they were driving.

In Texas, 1 in 5 crashes is the result of distracted driving, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. Incidents increased 3% last year. More than 3,000 people were seriously injured and 455 died.

What can you do? Implement or update a safe driving policy at your workplace. We have created a sample you can use on your own company letterhead. The sample addresses concern over aggressive driving, distracted driving, impaired driving and seat belt use. At the end, there is a place for employee acknowledgement of company policy, signature required.

Shop ‘Til You Drop’ is Not a Plan for Safety in Crowded Lots

As the holidays approach, your employees likely will be scrambling to fill wish lists and spending more time in crowded parking lots, too. Find out why parking lots are riskier than you think.

Auto insurers report parking lot claims spike during the holiday shopping season. Employees pay for crashes whether they occur on or off the job, so providing a bit of education can help you cut costs. Start with this:

  • More than 50,000 crashes occur in parking lots and garage structures annually
  • More than 5,000 people are killed
  • More than 60,000 are injured

These numbers likely are low because many parking lot incidents go unreported.

One reason so many pedestrians are hurt: distraction. In a National Safety Council public opinion poll, 66% of drivers nationwide said they would make phone calls while driving through parking lots.

Teach: How a problem created by technology can be solved by technology.

Distracted Driving Prevention: There is an App for That

In a blog post, Texas Mutual highlighted four apps on the market that can help prevent distracted driving or improve driving behavior. Introduce them at your workplace:

  • EverDrive: Runs in the background while you are driving and measures you on five key safety factors (phone distraction, braking, acceleration, cornering, speeding)
  • FleetSafer: Automatically detects driving status and enforces compliance with corporate safe driving policies
  • LifeSaver: Auto-detects driving and blocks phone use while behind the wheel
  • TrueMotion: Designed to give you a complete picture of your family’s driving safety, helping teens and adults drive distraction free

All of the apps have free versions available for download from the Apple Store or Google Play.

Texas Mutual advocates for phone-free driving because research shows hands-free devices are still distracting. In fact, drivers looking out the windshield can miss seeing up to 50% of what’s around them when talking on any kind of cell phone. It may be time to evaluate how and when you contact your employees, the expectations that you have or are implied and to look at your company policies.

How Your Employees Can Dispose of Unwanted Meds Properly

This is something that you, the employer, can be the driving force behind to make a difference: Did you know enough prescription painkillers were provided in 2010 to medicate every American around the clock for an entire month? What does that mean to you? At any given time, many of your employees may be using prescription painkillers on the job.

This can affect:

  • Driving vehicles to-and-from work
  • Operating machinery/equipment
  • Making critical judgments
  • Focus and concentration (resulting in declines in work pace and losses in productivity)

Safe driving requires precise skills, clear judgment, concentration and the ability to react to what happens on the road. Drugs affect all of these skills. Over-the-counter medicines can affect your driving skills if you don’t follow instructions or your doctor’s advice.

Research indicates 60% of Americans have leftover opioid painkillers in their homes. More than half of people who misuse opioid pain relievers obtain them from a friend or family member.

To prevent unused or unwanted drugs from falling into the wrong hands, you can order Stericycle seal-and-send envelopes from the National Safety Council. A pack of three envelopes is free. Larger quantities are available. Contact Stericycle for pricing at or 877-787-0375.

When Weather Grows Frightful, Be Ready with Winter Driving Safety Tips

During the winter months, driving conditions often are unpredictable and sometimes dangerous, even in Texas. To help your employees prepare for what’s ahead, share a few winter driving tips, courtesy of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Get your car serviced: Check for leaks, worn hoses or other parts in need of replacement
  • Windshield: One storm can empty your wiper fluid reservoir; use high-quality “winter” fluid with de-icer and keep extra in your trunk
  • Give them space: Don’t crowd snow plows, the road behind them is safer to drive on

Two more resources to share:

No Waiting at the Self-Driving Vehicle Checkout Line

In November, Michael Harley was one of a handful of journalists picked to take a

Credit: Kelly Blue Book

test-ride in Waymo’s self-driving minivan. The ride was through a test facility course in California. In part, he described the experience like this:

“We gazed at the monitor screen for about the first 30 seconds, waiting for the minivan to go wide in a corner, hit a curb, or roll through a stop sign. But it didn’t. Instead, it cruised effortlessly and smoothly around turns, missed every curb by several feet, and stopped perfectly at a three-way intersection.”

Harley reports Waymo has been testing vehicles on public roads in four cities west of the Mississippi. He said the company isn’t ready to disclose launch dates but is partnering with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Avis and Lyft. He concludes with this thought about the arrival of self-driving vehicles: “That moment appears nearer than many expect.”

Read: Waymo’s Self-Driving Tech: Review from the Back Seat

For now, teach your employees about today’s driver-assist safety features. Remind them: These features are designed to assist drivers, not replace them. When behind the wheel, you are your car’s best safety feature.

Watch/share: Road to Automation