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Sep 2016

On the Defensive: Striving for increased safety on the roadway


STOP road stenciling

Accidents can happen at any time, and to any person. Automobile accidents are no exception. All it takes is one poor decision, and a simple fender bender or a devastating tragedy can occur. Unfortunately, your own safety is not completely in your hands. A mistake made by another driver can impact you just as much as a mistake of your own. This is why defensive driving is important.

Occupational Automobile Accidents

Every day, millions of workers take to the roadway; driving to see clients, transporting goods, and providing other essential services. Every day, these workers put themselves at risk for an automobile accident. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, there are nearly 2,000 fatalities per year caused by occupational transportation accidents. Nationally, this accounts for nearly 40% of all deaths caused by occupational injuries.

Aside from the physical injuries, emotional scarring, and death of employees, occupational transportation accidents also cost employers billions of dollars annually.  According to a motor-vehicle safety guide compiled by OSHA, not only do employers need to shoulder medical bills and insurance costs, but there are also losses in productivity, vehicle replacement, and potential legal fees. The OSHA motor-vehicle guide states that employers spend over 16 thousand dollars, on average, for on-the-job crashes without an injury or death. That number increases to over 70 thousand dollars if the crash causes an injury, and can skyrocket to over 500 thousand if there is a fatality. Ultimately, occupational transportation accidents are not only a safety issue for employees, but they are a financial liability for employers.

Causes of Occupational Accidents

What are some of the main causes of on-the-job vehicular accidents? Statistics compiled by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that semi-truck drivers accounted for just under 40% of all vehicle accident fatalities. Combined, passenger vehicles and trucks/SUVS made up an additional 40% of fatalities. The remaining percentages were spread out among more indiscriminate vehicles and drivers.

There can be many causes for vehicle crashes. It only takes a split second disaster to strike. There are a few key factors to focus on. First, sleep deprivation can lead to drivers falling asleep at the wheel, and can impact alertness and reaction time. This is especially relevant to semi-truck drivers and other workers who drive for long hours over long distances.  Additionally - and perhaps the greatest factor in on-the-job crashes - is distracted driving. Workers who text, talk on the phone, check emails, do paperwork, eat, or carry out other non-driving related actions are at a much greater risk for an accident.

How to Improve Driving Safety

One of the best ways to impact roadway safety is to promote the practice of defensive driving. ‘Defensive Driving’ refers to the practice of driving in a way that is not focused solely on your own actions, but on the unexpected actions of others. For example, defensive driving encourages drivers to assume the worst of other drives. Never assume another driver is paying attention, sees you, or is aware of what you are going to do.

Defensive driving is not a single technique or skill. Rather, it is a philosophy that should trickle down throughout your driving practices as a whole. Employers can train their workers to adopt the philosophy of defensive driving. The National Safety Council offers defensive driving training programs for employers to take advantage of. These programs can raise awareness for the importance of roadway safety, as well as improve the defensive driving tendencies in your workforce.

Distracted driving is extremely dangerous. Employers need to bring attention to the risks of distracted driving. Providing training, hosting seminars, and actively condemning the practice of distracted driving should be a priority for all employers with workers who drive while on the job. Employers need to make it a point to address distracted driving in their workforce.

Employees can help prevent distracted driving by;

  1. PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY! Do not let a text, email, or call be the death of you. Save it for later, or pull over.
  2. Store loose items securely to prevent them from falling while the vehicle is in motion.
  3. Avoid eating, putting on makeup, or doing paperwork while driving.
  4. Keep it simple: just drive.

Roadway safety is critically important to every workplace that requires employees to drive, travel, and transport goods/services. Don’t neglect the safety of the workforce. Keep them safe on the road, as well as in the office.

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