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July 2018 Safety Coach: Standard Equipment … Not Necessarily Safe

Safety Coach
Why Employers Should Address Vehicle System Distraction

Today’s in-vehicle infotainment systems allow drivers to make calls, surf the web, check social media and send texts. Many believe these systems are safe because they come standard on new vehicles. Yet, all are capable of pulling a driver’s attention away from the road, and there is nothing safe about that.

While a recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found some systems to be less distracting than others, it also examined the time it takes to perform various tasks while behind the wheel. AAA separated levels of infotainment distraction into four categories: very high, high, moderate and low.

On some vehicle systems, AAA determined tasks can be completed more rapidly. Still, research shows drivers who take their eyes off the road for more than 2 seconds double their risk of crashing. In Texas, 100,687 crashes involved distracted driving in 2017, resulting in 444 deaths and 2,889 serious injuries, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. That’s more than 275 crashes every day, and many can be traced to cell phone distracted driving.

“Smartphone companies and automakers must collaborate to reduce the potential for distraction that technology places on drivers,” said Jake Nelson, AAA director of traffic safety and advocacy. “The airline industry doesn’t compete on safety and neither should automakers. Motorists deserve better.”

Employers continue to lead the fight against distracted driving by implementing safe driving policies that ban employee use of hand-held and hands-free devices while driving. TxDOT suggests sharing these tips:

  • Tell friends, family and co-workers you won’t respond to calls while driving
  • Use a smartphone app that sends auto-reply texts when you are behind the wheel

At your workplace, challenge employees to take the National Safety Council Pledge to drive distraction-free. Use our free Safety Coach cards to turn a safety lesson into a Jeopardy-style quiz with your work group. Learn how to use the cards and print a complete set. Or, point employees to our e-learning module on distracted driving.

Four more ways to address distracted driving:

Tailgate Talk
How to Deal with Work Safety Issues Hiding in Plain Sight

In a survey conducted by the National Safety Council, 7 in 10 employers said they have felt some effect of prescription drug use, and 39% said they have experienced absenteeism or missed work. Only 19% said they felt “extremely prepared” to deal with issues involving substance use and abuse.

Do you know what to look for? In a 30-minute webinar on Wednesday, Aug. 22, Our Driving Concern Program Coordinator and Master Trainer Cindy Leonard will discuss free resources available to all Texas employers to assist in identifying problems with substance use.

Leonard regularly leads free drug impairment training sessions designed to equip Texas safety professionals and workplace leaders with information and tools to reduce drug- and alcohol-impaired driving incidents across the state. She addresses how to create or improve workplace policies and the tug of war that is employer perception.

“Impairment is bigger than alcohol and marijuana,” Leonard said. “Many employers we see are unaware of how easy it is to miss what employees are doing that impairs their job performance and, equally important, causes safety issues at work and on the road. Often, participants in the DITTE training will leave afterwards saying things like, “I had no idea …’ ”

NSC found misuse and abuse of prescription drugs is a:

  • disease that should be treated like any chronic health condition (71%)
  • justifiable reason to fire an employee (65%)

Use of drugs, including legally prescribed prescription medications, can cause a range of side effects that can impact an employee’s ability to perform job duties. Drug use and alcohol also can compromise skills required for safe driving, including clear judgment, concentration and reaction time.

Save the date/free webinar: Hiding in Plain Sight (2 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 22).
Drug Impairment Training for Texas Employers: Make plans to attend an upcoming session.