Georgia became the 26th state to ban texting while driving On July 1, 2010. (Various other states are considering similar laws). Safe driving laws – like NO texting while driving – are designed to protect the public, but an important side effect of safe driving laws is a reduction in the number of workers’ compensation injuries, deaths and claims. Automobile and truck accidents are the leading cause of workplace deaths, with 1,300 work-related traffic fatalities each year. So, while this may sound like common sense, it bears repeating….
There are strong reasons states ban texting while driving. According to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, a truck driver texting while driving is 23.2 times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident than a truck driver who is not distracted and paying full attention to driving. In fact, texting while driving is 6 times more likely to result in a traffic accident than driving while intoxicated. Other facts from their study include: (WCxKitz)
- A truck driver dialing a cell phone is 5.9 times more likely to crash than a non-distracted driver.
- A car driverdialing a cell phone is 2.8 times more likely to crash than a non-distracted driver.
- A truck driverreaching for a cell phone is 6.7 times more likely to crash than a non-distracted driver.
- A car driverreaching for a cell phone is 1.4 times more likely to crash than a non-distracted driver.
- A car drivertalking on a cell phone is 1.3 times more likely to crash than a non-distracted driver.
- For every6 seconds a driver spends texting, 4.6 of those seconds are with their eyes off the road, which makes texting the most dangerous cell phone activity.
Employers who haven’t already instituted a “no texting or cell phone use while driving” policy should do so. Not only is your company more exposed to workers compensation claims from your distracted drivers, your company is also more exposed to liability claims and lawsuits arising out of the traffic accidents.
Texting and talking on a cell phone are not the only ways employees end up in work-related traffic accidents. If your company does not already have a safe driving program, it should institute one to address the various causes of accidents. The program does not have to be complex. It should use common sense and easy to understand principles of safety. For instance, you could include in your safe driving program rules such as:
- Always weara seatbelt and shoulder harness.
- Never driveunder the influence of medications, alcohol or illicit drugs.
- Always obeyall speed limits.
- Always payattention and be alert.
- Slow downin bad weather – fog, rain & snow.
- Leave earlywith plenty of time to make your destination on time.
- Remain calm, chill out and avoid any type of road confrontation.
- Selectthe safest route. (WCxKitz)
- Never drivewhile tired or sleepy.
- Keep a safedistance from vehicles in front of you and behind you.
- Drive defensivelyat all times.
Many vehicle safety programs can be found on the internet, both for sale and for free. If you do not already have a safe driving policy as part of your safety program, it is strongly recommend you create one. Every delivery truck driver, every traveling salesman, any employee with a company car or any employee operating a personal car on company business should be included in your safe driver program.
From a liability standpoint, your safe driving programs should include:
- A trafficviolations record check on every person operating a vehicle on company business.
- A policyof not allowing anyone with a DUI conviction to operate a company vehicle or a privately owned vehicle on company business.
- A policyof not allowing anyone with a set number of points (your company decides how many) to operate a company vehicle or a privately owned vehicle on company business.
- Road testingthe driver’s ability if the primary job function is operating a vehicle.
Drivers are not the only ones who can be involved in traffic accidents. Road construction and road maintenance workers are exposed to injuries from traffic. Police, emergency responders and tow truck drivers can also be injured due to traffic. If you have any employees in these categories they definitely need to be included in your safety program. (WCxKitz)
Often a company’s safety program is designed to mitigate and minimize on premise accidents. However, failure to consider driver safety can result in an increase in your workers compensation exposure. A good safe driving program is an important part of a complete safety program.
Author Rebecca Shafer, President, Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. has worked successfully for 20 years with many industries to reduce Workers’ Compensation costs, including airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality and manufacturing. Contact: Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com or 860-553-6604.
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Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers’ comp issues.
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