A: Take those three words and think about how your organization can benefit from studying risks associated with fatigue and drowsy driving. Dr. Charles Czeisler is the renown “Sleep Doctor” from Harvard who has worked with professional athletes and aerospace engineers to help them obtain adequate rest and reach peak performance.
It’s funny to watch the texting woman in a Chinese shopping mall fall into the fountain. It’s not so funny if you are absorbing the brunt of costs associated with injuries that result from these types of incidents. Employers are paying for more and more injuries related to phone distractions.
Q: Do you have employees that walk at lunch? Or as part of a health and wellness program sponsored by your organization? Do you have salesmen that walk as part of their job — to-and-from their car? Someone who goes to the post office or office supply store — walking from the parking lot to the building? Or employees that ride their bikes to work?
A: Sure you do. People walk and ride bikes all time, some for work, others for fun. Distractions – specifically texting and talking on cell phones – have contributed to a rise in injuries and fatalities involving pedestrians and cyclists across the nation.
In 2016, more than 265,000 people were injured in traffic crashes statewide, according to the Texas Department of Transportation. One person was killed every 2 hours 20 minutes. When an employee misses work because of a crash, employer’s experience a decline in productivity. Crashes — whether they occur on or off the job — increase costs for everything from insurance premiums to fringe benefits. Traffic safety can help you drive change and reduce incidents involving risky driving behaviors such as distracted, drunk and drowsy driving.
Q: Still, I am asked from time-to-time, what exactly is this program and what is it about?
A: Think of Our Driving Concern as your table of contents and you are writing the book that goes with the table of contents. We provide the framework and resources for you to develop a traffic safety program at your workplace at no cost. Our materials are designed to fit nearly every situation and nearly every work environment – big, small, public and private.
From Our Driving Concern, everybody can find tools to put in their toolbox. The aim is to address transportation safety in the workplace and to reach 100% of your employees. You have the ability to take the materials and make them meet your needs. We update materials and produce new resources on a regular basis, including our eNewsletters, webinars, on-line learning modules, safety coach cards and print materials.
Accidents often occur by chance or without apparent or deliberate cause. Crashes typically are the result of driver error. Incidents involving distracted, drunk, drugged and drowsy driving have led to a surge in crashes across America. All can be linked to behavior choices. Our Driving Concern Senior Program Manager Lisa Robinson suggests you point out that not-so-subtle difference when talking with employees about the importance of traffic safety.
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.
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:
- Learn: How to Promote Sober Driving
- Post: No Clowning Around
- Watch: Bobbing is for Apples, Not for Drivers
Risks of Distraction Weigh Heavily on Your Bottom Line
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:
Does it seem like employees are always distracted by their cell phones while at work? How often do you see someone who has their face buried in their phone? Way too often, I would imagine, so I’m sure you will be able to relate to this scenario.
In Phone Down, Eyes Up, a public service announcement produced by Keep Kids Alive Drive 25 in partnership with Ford’s Driving Skills for Life and the Governors Highway Safety Association, we are introduced to Kyle and Melanie.
And then we are introduced to the special relationship they have with their phones. Suffice it to say the two spend nearly every waking minute with their phones. Do you know people like that at your workplace?
Q: I am concerned about those who drive as part of their job and also concerned about all of our employees and their families. How do I talk with my employees about the traffic safety risks posed by using handheld and hands-free devices while behind the wheel? And what about dashboard infotainment systems? Do I include information on this in my safety talks?
In a recent issue of The Prospector, a student publication at the University of Texas El Paso, reporter Christian Vasquez details how “DWI will cost you more than a mug shot.”
Lessons learned by those still in school are applicable to those in the workforce, too.
Impaired driving is the main ingredient in a recipe for roadway disaster. The associated costs run the gamut from fines — which can amount to $17,000 or more — and jail time to crash fatalities and injuries. And, then, there is public humiliation.
“Honestly, you feel like a huge loser, and you feel like a huge disappointment to everyone in your life,” said one UTEP student in recounting the impact after he was arrested for DWI.
Our Driving Concern Program Manager Lisa Robinson speaks to the issues and concerns all Texas employers face when trying to make their workforce safe on the road.
Answer: Knowledge is power.
Survey says: Most people are unaware of the cognitive distractions associated with using the hands-free and voice control features that come standard today in many newer vehicles. In fact, in a poll conducted by the National Safety Council, 80% of respondents said they believe hands-free devices are safer than handheld, and 53% said that voice control features are safer because they’re provided in vehicles. Because they’re provided? Hmm …