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.
A: A driver’s field of vision can be narrowed to include only areas illuminated by headlights and fixed road lights. Depth perception and peripheral vision can be compromised. And then, there is fatigue.
Fatigue is caused by sleep-deprivation, time-on-task tedium and body-clock disruption. All can be factors leading to drowsy driving. The ability to sustain attention, see and react to hazards dips when drivers are drowsy. In a National Safety Council survey, one in five working Americans admitted to falling asleep while driving in the past month.
October is a good time to talk about risks associated with night driving and pedestrian safety because the month typically is reserved for fall festivals and Halloween activities and concludes as daylight savings time nears an end. Your drivers and employees will be driving during more in the dark.
Vehicle safety features are really important. Many of us tend to look at technology – and advanced driver assistance systems – with a bit of nervous trepidation. There is a learning curve that comes with all new gadgets. And what if you can’t remember what safety features are on your car or truck?
Typically, when you buy a vehicle, the salesperson will walk you through all the features and demonstrate how they work. All well and good, right? What happens a day or two later when you don’t remember what you learned?
I can tell you my car has many features that I have not fully explored yet. In fact, I will tell on myself.
For more than 30 years, comedian David Letterman entertained late-night TV audiences with his Top Ten lists. He poked fun at everybody and everything. And rare was the occasion when viewers didn’t crack a smile.
For Letterman, the zany antics began with his “Top Ten Things That Almost Rhyme with Peas” in September 1985. For me, a top 10 list is a more grounded tool I roll out on occasion when speaking to groups about traffic safety. I use a Letterman-style reverse countdown to highlight why a back-to-basics approach often is best.
Q: Will I catch anyone laughing during one of my talks?
To prepare your workforce for the rollout of partially and fully autonomous vehicles, it would be helpful to share some of what is going on right now in the fast-paced world of motor vehicle development.
Did you know a self-driving 18-wheeler is being tested in San Antonio?
Then, it would be helpful to review some of the safety features that already are commonplace in vehicles on our roads today. It’s a win-win for Texas employers. Traffic safety is one of the best ways to save money and save lives.
Surprisingly, not all business owners recognize that the deadliest issue for their employees is also one of the priciest. Crashes cost employers $47 billion annually and 1.6 million work days each year.
Q: What can you do about it?
A: As a business owner, you know how important it is to understand what impacts your bottom line and to find cost-effective solutions to remain competitive. The Our Driving Concern Program (ODC) is a free traffic safety program designed for employers by the National Safety Council and funded through the Texas Department of Transportation. Here – in condensed form – are four reasons why it makes sense for you to take advantage of our program:
Reason #1: Don’t accept accidents as the “cost of doing business”
The most dangerous part of the day for employees is the time they spend in their vehicle. While Texans look at the increasing strain of traffic congestion, many don’t realize that about 90% of crashes are the result of human error and, therefore, can be prevented.
Be honest: You know what it means to experience a “micro-sleep” – that head-snapping, head-bobbing feeling that comes before you quit fighting and finally close your eyes and nod off.
If you’re behind the wheel, that experience can turn deadly.
In Wake Up Call! Understanding Drowsy Driving and What States Can Do, the Governors Highway Safety Association reports nearly 83.6 million sleep-deprived motorists are driving every day.
The cost? In 2015, an estimated 5,000 lives were lost in drowsy driving-related incidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says Americans spent $109 billion for fatigue-related fatal and injury crashes, not including property damage.
- Don’t drive, pull over
- Get some rest (research indicates a 20-minute nap will remedy drowsiness, at least temporarily)
- Drink a caffeinated beverage (coffee or cola)
While technology can help, the thing to know is this: You are your best safety feature. On long trips, rotate drivers and map out rest areas.
Two Resources to Share
- Texas Department of Transportation: Use this map to locate Texas rest areas on your route
- Our Driving Concern Drowsy Driving Poster: Not Your Dream Car
Singing in the rain is one thing. Driving in the rain is another. In 2015, the Texas Department of Transported tracked 77,883 crashes statewide that occurred when road surface conditions were reported as wet.
Four hundred and seven people were killed and another 1,716 suffered incapacitating injuries.
Our job and job responsibilities continue in the rain, sleet, snow, etc. Employees still drive to and from work as well as do their jobs that may require driving as a part of the job. This can increase risk significantly for the employer.
Q: How often should employers talk with employees about basic driving skills? About driving in the rain?
A: Since motor vehicle crashes remain the #1 cause of unintentional occupational deaths, the answer here is best thought of in terms of another question: When is it not a good idea to talk about traffic safety? Employers pay for the cost of injuries and fatalities whether crashes occur on or off the job.
Our Driving Concern Program Manager Lisa Robinson speaks to issues and concerns all Texas employers face when trying to make their workforce safe on the road:
Answer: Those are great questions and really are the key to developing an effective messaging plan. To find answers, let’s start with this: Working to reinforce positive driving behaviors and to promote a culture of traffic safety are ideals that are increasingly becoming the norm with Texas employers. Messages should be all-inclusive, recognizing that everyone on occasion can benefit from a refresher on how to safely navigate through intersections or an introduction to backing basics as well as company policies related to backing up. Backing up is one issue most of the employers I have visited with seem to share a concern about.
Let’s look at Texas Department of Transportation statistics: Taking individuals ranging from age 19 to 33, data shows an average of 124.3 drivers were involved in fatal crashes for each age group in 2014. At age 20, the number of drivers in incapacitating injury crashes topped out at 690. For those between the ages of 40-55, the average number of drivers in fatal crashes was 76.6. Lower, but still significant. Still tragic.