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

Safety Coach

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: