One of the biggest, and costliest, exposures your company will ever face happens every time one of your employees gets behind the wheel of a car. Each year in April, which is Distracted Driver Awareness Month, risk managers work with clients to help them better understand the risks associated with distracted driving, and how to curb the use of handheld devices among employees.
First, it’s important to understand the gravity of the situation. On any given day, 481,000 people in the U.S. are using a cell phone while driving. And here’s the really bad news: some of them are your employees. Here’s another sobering statistic: there were 5,190 occupational fatalities in 2016, a seven percent increase over the previous year.
Technology is the proverbial double-edged sword. Put yourself in your employee’s shoes: a busy day full of deadlines, tight schedules, and high expectations is the perfect formula for danger. So what can your company do to curb the use of handheld devices while behind the wheel of a car? Turns out, plenty.
First, it is up to the company itself, through the actions of its managers and exective staff, to set the proper tone and example. If your employees see their manager texting while driving, they are more likely to follow suit. Also, make sure your expectations are not the problem. If an employee thinks that a delayed response will draw the ire of the boss, they are more likely to use their cell phone while driving.
Secondly, communicate with your employees that you do not expect them to respond to emails, texts and phone calls while they are en route during their work day. That communication should be both verbal and written. More on that, below.
Thirdly, develop a written policy expressly stating that the company does not condone, nor will it allow, employees to use electronic devices while driving for work. The policy should state what corrective action the company is prepared to take should the employee be found in violation of that policy. The policy should also make clear that management does not expect an immediate reply when an employee is en route as part of their work day. Further, the policy should be part of the onboarding process for new employees, and the company should keep a signed copy in the employee’s file.
Lastly, your company should include specific employee training, at least on an annual basis, on the dangers of distracted driving. The training should restate the company’s no tolerance policy for using electronic devices.
Distracted driving is currently at epidemic levels in the U.S., and is largely responsible for the 5-10 percent rate hike that most commercial auto accounts will see between mid-2018 and late 2019. There’s a lot of misinformation and frankly, denial, about the implications of distracted driving. The National Traffic Safety Board found that 20 percent of drivers age 18-20 truly believe that texting does not affect their driving at all. Nearly 30 percent of drivers ages 21-34 said texting has no impact on them.
As technology continues to evolve, so, too, does the comfort level of the driver. Help drive accountability and create awareness within your company. Here are a few links with more good information on distracted driving.