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June 2016 Safety Coach: Nothing Simulated about Dangers of Distracted Driving

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Your company cars and trucks are equipped with the latest technology, including dashboard infotainment systems. And you’re thinking it must be safe for employees to use these systems while driving since they came with the vehicle, right?Drive simulator


These systems likely are designed for convenience, but that does not necessarily make them safe. Most people today are unaware of the distractions associated with hands-free and voice control features, including cognitive distraction and inattention blindness.

AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research indicates mental distractions can persist long after dialing, changing music or sending a text using voice commands. How long? In the time it can take you to pull your brain away from the performance of one of these tasks, you will have covered the length of six football fields in a vehicle traveling at 40 mph.

That’s why it is so important to remind your employees communication that doesn’t help you drive doesn’t need to be done while you’re driving, whether it is to-and-from the office or out-and-about in the community. While technology continues to evolve at break-neck speed, safety hasn’t always kept pace.

The Texas A&M ArgiLife Extension Service makes its driving simulator available to organizations so staff members and traffic safety professionals can educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving. Traffic crashes still are the #1 cause of workplace death.

Employers pay for crashes that occur both on and off the job through a variety of means, including productivity losses as a result of missed work days and increased costs for health benefits and insurance premiums. One way to recoup those costs is to teach safe driving behaviors. Here are three ways to address the problem of distracted driving:

Another useful tool: Texas A&M provides impaired driving simulators through its Watch Ur BAC program. Drivers experience simulation of impaired driving through a video game atmosphere. This is a great resource for a company health and wellness event.

Tailgate Talk

Don’t Be Afraid to Stash These Aces Up Your Sleeve

In a blog post published in conjunction with the observance of National Safety Month, John Howard of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and HealthODC Safety Coach Card distracted driving-1 says distracted driving occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off your primary task: driving safely.

Any time? Questions from your employees likely will generate lively debate at your next safety huddle gathering. For instance, in terms of distraction at the wheel, what’s the difference between chewing gum and talking on the phone?

Answer: Chewing gum is not cognitively demanding. You don’t have to think about it. You can’t do more than one thinking task at a time and do it safely or do it well. Thinking tasks include driving, texting, listening, speaking, reading and gaming.

You will find these types of questions – and answers – in an easy-to-use format on the resources page of We’ve designed a set of Safety Coach cards that you can download and use to engage your team, even during those intimate talks from the back of your pickup truck.

The cards cover distracted driving questions as well as questions related to impaired driving, aggressive driving, driving basics and passenger restraint usage. You will find a brief explanation on how to use the cards here. Soon, you will be dealing in safe driving behaviors. And the question of why is one you can answer with a number – 476.

In 2015, 476 people were killed in crashes involving distracted driving statewide, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.  In an effort to dramatize the risks, pull up these two videos on your tablet or mobile device and share them with your team:

After watching, ask individuals on your team to share thoughts. Everyone has a traffic story to tell.

Faces of Drunk Driving are Portrayed in TxDOT Campaign

Sean Carter was 22 years old when he was severely injured in a wreck caused by a drunk driver. Today, the Dallas resident is unable to walk or talk. He uses an iPad to communicate and warn others about the consequences of drinking and driving, according to a news release issued by the Texas Department of Transportation.

Carter shares his story through TxDOT’s “Plan While You Can” campaign. The campaign is intended to save lives and decrease alcohol-related crashes. During the Fourth of July Weekend in 2015, there were 355 alcohol-related crashes in Texas, resulting in 19 fatalities and 32 serious injuries.

The “Plan While You Can” campaign – which coincides with an increase in drunk driving enforcement along with local no-refusal efforts – includes a multi-city tour that stops at shopping malls in Austin, Fort Worth, Houston, Lubbock and Waco. Patrons will be invited to test their driving skills during a two-minute interactive game that simulates sober-to-impaired driving conditions.

In addition, two large video monitors will allow mall shoppers to watch 30-second videos from the Faces of Drunk Driving website. Carter’s story is featured in one of the videos. Others tell tales from drunk driving crash victims across Texas.