Put down the phone and promise to drive distraction free

In 2012, nearly 3,400 people (3,328, actually) died in distraction-affected crashes, according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation (DOT). An estimated 421,000 people were injured in crashes that involved a distracted driver. Approximately 660,000 drivers use a cell phone for talking or texting at ANY GIVEN MOMENT in time across the country.

That’s 660,000 people that could be causing a crash – right now.

That’s why companies are hard at work getting the message out about distracted driving. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and it is an awareness that every driver – whether they are one of the estimated 27% of drivers involved in a fatal crash due to distraction that is in their 20s, or a seasoned, 20-year professional driver hauling an 80,000 lb. rig down the highway who has never had so much as a traffic ticket – needs to pay attention to.

It only takes that one time to cause a crash that will alter lives forever.

Here’s another reason for commercial trucking fleets to ensure their drivers are remaining distracted-free while driving: The average work-related motor vehicle injury claim costs $69,206, according to the National Safety Council and noted by Travelers.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says that sending or receiving a text can take a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds – the time it takes to travel a football field at 55 mph, the insurance firm says.

(If you are interested in Taking the Pledge to drive cell-free, you can do so here.)

“Helping employees avoid distraction while driving starts with management and creating a culture committed to safety,” said Chris Hayes, second vice president, Travelers Risk Control. “Employees who drive for work often feel pressure to respond to emails and phone calls, especially from their manager. It’s important for company leaders to set the expectation that it’s better to respond later than while driving.”

Travelers went on to recite data from the AAA Foundation’s 2014 Traffic Safety Culture Index. That Index found that more than two in three drivers admitted to talking on a cell phone while driving and one in four drivers admits to typing or sending a text message or email while driving.

Despite that information, according to Travelers, only 27% of its customers have a formal policy on distracted driving that is strictly enforced.

For companies interested in starting or enforcing a distracted driving policy (and really, who doesn’t?), Travelers recommends instituting a four-step program.

  1. Create – Develop a formal, written policy stating your organization’s position on mobile device use and other distractions while driving. This policy should apply to everyone in your organization who drives a vehicle, regardless of their position.
  2. Communicate – To be effective, safety policies should be communicated repeatedly. Have every employee who drives acknowledge in writing that they have read, understand and will follow it. Then, send regular messaging to employees via emails, newsletters and bulletin board postings to reinforce the policy.
  3. Follow – Managers and office staff should lead by example. Let employees know that while they are on the road, no phone call or email is more important than their safety. To further prove that point, managers and other staff should defer conversations with employees until they are safely parked.
  4. Promote – Managers should define the safe driving practices and expected behaviors of those that drive for any business purpose. They should also take the appropriate steps to understand who is following these policies, and actively promote the desired behavior.

For more information on how to help prevent distracted driving, visit www.Travelers.com or Prepare and Prevent-Distracted Driving.

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