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A matter of seconds: The dangers of distracted driving on the job

July 28, 2017

Fleeting moments of inattentiveness can lead to serious injuries and fatalities.

Fred Myatt

Assistant Vice President – Casualty Technical Director

As Assistant Vice President – Casualty Technical Director for Zurich North America, Fred and his... About this expert

fleet of black vans

Imagine you’re pulling a trailer on your company pickup truck – taking some critical supplies back to the job site. You’re close to your destination, but then you catch sight of a sea of red lights ahead of you … a traffic jam.

You slow to a crawl but, determined to make up lost time, you try to use your phone’s maps app to find an alternate route to the job. Traffic is barely moving and you think you are looking back at the road frequently enough to be safe, when … BAM! You rear-end the car in front of you. And despite the slow speed, you’re in a truck, pulling a trailer, and you’ve just hit a subcompact. Before you know it, police cars and rescue vehicles are on the way.

Here’s another scenario: You drive for a ride-share service or cab company and the customer you just picked up is chatty. As he is giving you the play-by-play account of his son’s recent towering home run in a Little League game, he pulls out his phone and leans over the front seat to show you the video. You glance over just for a moment, trying to be polite and possibly secure a nice tip. The video, though, runs a little longer than you expect, and in those few extra seconds, a pedestrian tries to dash across the street in front of your vehicle. Unfortunately, his timing is off as well.

According to a news release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics last December, roadway incidents accounted for more than a quarter of all fatal occupational injuries in 2015. While these statistics don’t include non-occupational fatalities, the numbers are still staggering, with almost four people per day dying on the job due to transportation incidents.

While an exact number can’t be placed on distracted driving’s impact on workplace-related motor vehicle fatalities (or injuries, for that matter), that impact is undeniable. The National Safety Council lists distracted driving as one of the three most common causes of fatalities on the road, along with speeding and alcohol. In a work environment, where multiple tasks can demand a driver’s attention, distractions are ever-present.

For employers, distracted driving also has the potential to devastate the bottom line. Companies may be held liable for injuries or fatalities involving an employee or a contractor who engaged in another activity that qualifies as distracted driving (e.g., texting).

From a business perspective and simply a human one, driver awareness needs to be a top priority for employees who get behind the wheel and the companies that hire them .