We’ve often discussed the scourge of distracted driving in America, brought on in large part due to the use of smartphones and leading to a significant spike in vehicle accidents, injuries and deaths. That in turn has led to a jump in both commercial and personal auto insurance pricing.
The risk for businesses is even greater as a careless driving employee can result in a substantial liability claim, particularly if a third party is injured. If one of your drivers is found to have been engaged in distracted driving, any judgment or settlement for a personal injury could easily cost more than $1 million.
While you can hold meetings about the dangers of distracted driving and what your driving employees can do to reduce the chances of crashing, in the end it comes down to trusting that they will do the right thing.
So what can you do? We suggest a holistic approach to the issue.
- Understand distracted driving
Just how bad is the distracted driving problem? In 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. During daylight hours, an estimated 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads.
But smartphones are not the only source of distraction. Road safety experts say there are three types of distraction for drivers:
- Manual – This can include looking around for a lost object in the car, reaching under the seat or behind to the back seat.
- Cognitive – This can include a driver who is lost in thought and not paying full attention to driving.
- Visual – Anything that makes a driver takes their eyes off the road, like looking at the GPS or searching for a song on an iPod.
Some distractions actually are a combination of two or all the above, like texting or posting stuff on Facebook.
All of your training for your driving employees must emphasize the need to address all types of distracted driving, and should include scenarios to help them make proper decisions when behind the wheel.
2. Hire good drivers
When hiring personnel who drive, consider what their primary responsibility is. For example, if you own a plumbing operation, your drivers are not necessarily going to be professional drivers, since their primary duty is fixing plumbing issues.
But if you are hiring any workers who will be driving as part of their job, even if it’s not their primary responsibility, you should still make sure they are good drivers by checking their driving records.
Hiring safe drivers is one of the best ways for you to ensure you are putting safe drivers behind the wheel. After all, past driving behavior is the best indication of future performance.
If you think any prospect will be driving as part of their job, you should pull their DMV records. Look for anything serious like DUIs or frequent citations for moving violations. You should decide what your level of tolerance is for driving histories.
In addition, check their resumes to see whether they were driving as part of any of their prior jobs, and if they have experience driving the same type of vehicle they would be driving for you.
Also ask about any medications the applicant may be taking, as some can affect their driving.
Finally, consider requiring candidates that would be driving to take a road test as part of the recruitment process.
3. Coach current employees to be safe drivers
You should hold regular training for all of your current employees that may drive as part of their job, even if they are only running to the office supply store or on an occasional errand.
You should attack this in a three-pronged approach:
- Pull their DMV driving records annually.
- Subject them to road tests where they are graded on their safe driving.
- Hold an annual meeting to go over safe driving policies; reinforce the dangers of distracted driving and stress the need to always focus on the task at hand.
You should also have safe driving policies in writing that are enforceable. Your policies should list all the behaviors your workers are prohibited from engaging in while driving.
Some rules you can include:
- Never answer the phone while driving, even if you have a hands-free device.
- Bar programming a GPS while on the move and require that they pull over when safe to do so.
- Never hold your smartphone in your hand while driving.
Your policy should also specify the consequences and any disciplinary action for breaking the rules.
You should maintain records of these policies. This is of utmost importance if one of your employees is in an accident and accused of negligence. Your policy and proof of training can protect your organization.
- Take advantage of technology
Many companies are installing GPS tracking devices in their vehicles so they can receive real-time information about a vehicle’s location and rate of speed. This gives you valuable insight into any dangerous habits your drivers may be engaging in.
You can also install technologies that will block cell phone signals while the vehicle is moving.
- Have procedures for dealing with accidents
Despite your best efforts, your driving employees may still have accidents. They should be trained in the procedures they should follow after an accident.
Some companies include accident kits in their vehicles. They are typically a small bag or box that’s kept in the glove compartment.
The kit should explain what they should do, including:
- Taking photos from all angles after an accident.
- Completing a form on which to record details of the accident, including where it took place, how it occurred, the damage to third parties, the other driver’s insurance information, road conditions, and more. Require your drivers to take down all the details at the scene of the accident.
- Calling the police in the event of an accident.
Employees should not discuss who was at fault with the police, but they can work with them to document the accident. Plus, a police officer can provide a calm, outside perspective on a stressful situation.