Keep your eyes on the prize. That’s easier said than done—especially when driving—even when that prize is your very life. Recent research indicates that some type of distraction is present during 52 percent of normal driving—and distracted driving can be nearly as dangerous as driving drunk.
In a new three-year, nation-wide, naturalistic driving study involving 3,500 participants, researchers report that the risk of having a crash involving injury or property damage doubles when distracted. In fact, 68 percent of crashes involved a distraction of some kind. And an estimated 36 percent of all motor vehicle crashes could be avoided if distractions were out of the picture.
Obviously, this is a serious problem, even a national health crisis. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death and injuries in the U.S., killing more than 32,000 annually. The U.S. Department of Transportation statistics show that cell phones are involved in 1.6 million crashes every year—causing half a million injuries and taking 6,000 lives annually.
“Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded,” the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute noted.
If your job or entire industry relies on the steady hand of employed drivers, these numbers are especially alarming. This is a code red safety emergency in the workplace. Distracted driving is the number one cause of deaths on the job.
Before moving into some safety measures employers can take, let’s outline the three different types of distractions that take people’s eyes off the road. Visual: from reading a text to rubbernecking. Manual: taking your hands off the wheel to adjust the radio, applying makeup, eating, and so much more. Cognitive: taking your mind off the road by arguing with a passenger or speaking on the phone (yes, even hands-free).
Many states now regulate the use of cellphones on the road (check the laws in each state). Many companies do too. Policies include a blanket ban of sending texts and talking on a cellphone while driving a company vehicle or speaking on a company phone. These policies are especially effective when they’re driven home by first clearly communicating the risks and dangers of distracted driving.
Employers are becoming the driving force behind changing the behavior of cellphone users while driving. In fact, those without an enforced ban on cellphones are putting their companies at financial risk. It’s not easy to break bad driving habits, but a clear pledge with real repercussions could help, along with practical tips like turning your cellphone to silent and putting it in a place that’s out of reach. Apps like Text No More and Canary can also give incentives or warnings when cellphones are used while driving.
Also on the safety radar? Actual safety radars. Technology like the radar-based collision mitigation systems developed by PRECO Electronics can be literal lifesavers. Other tech advancements include automatic emergency braking, collision warning systems, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warnings, blind spot detection, and more.
So keep an eye out for both innovative and old-school ways you can reduce crashes and collisions to save your company, or even your life. Just remember to keep your eye on the road first and foremost.
What are some ways your company is putting the brakes with distracted driving?