The US government first declared April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month six years ago, but the headlines on distracted driving are bleaker every year. The National Safety Council estimates that 27% of crashes involve drivers talking and texting on cell phones, and these crashes cost the equivalent of 9 lives each day. Nearly everyone now has a cell phone, so distraction continues to rise. A growing number of studies have tied distraction in various forms to increased crash risks. Despite the increased awareness of the risks, we have not been able to turn the corner on driver distraction.
The most recent numbers from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) indicate that the fatal crash rate for every mile traveled rose in 2015 despite significant advances in vehicle safety designs and systems. A growing number of companies are paying attention to the stark distracted driving trends and studies indicating that cell phone conversations while driving significantly increase the risk of being in a crash. Texting and other keying on a phone are worse, but even hands-free with both hands on the wheel and eyes on the roadway, drivers are still cognitively distracted when talking on a phone, which results in a 4 times greater crash risk.
NHTSA’s distraction.gov website provides excellent resources for employers and individuals who want to learn more about this topic. Additionally, Zurich’s Risk Topic and other features on distracted driving offer some possible solutions to help companies get their arms around this risk. Instead of just observing April as Distracted Driving Awareness month this year, take a step further and consider implementing new approaches to increasing fleet safety in your organization.
5 action steps to help manage distracted driving:
- Develop company policies that ban texting/typing and prohibit or at least significantly limit phone conversations while driving.
- Encourage employees to activate the “Do Not Disturb” feature on their phones at the same time that they are buckling up their seatbelts. Devices vary, but this feature may reduce drivers’ temptation to check and respond to texts, emails and other distractions while driving.
- If phone calls cannot be completely eliminated, reduce the amount of time that employees spend on the phone while driving by using device settings to limit phone calls. Many devices can allow only the “favorite” contacts to ring while the phone is in “Do Not Disturb” mode.
- Encourage employees to keep necessary calls as short as possible and save more complex or personal calls for times when they are not driving.
- Plan for communication needs. Schedule non-driving times for phone calls and emails.