Distracted driving and failing to be safe when on the road can be an employer’s worst nightmare. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) research reveals that approximately every 12 minutes someone dies in a car crash, every 10 seconds an injury occurs and every 5 seconds a crash occurs.
Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of on-the-job fatalities. Because many accidents take place during the workday or with an employer-provided vehicle, these accidents carry tremendous risks for employers.
Developing and implementing a driver safety program and making sure employees drive safely can be the key to reducing the risk of an accident and keeping employees and others safe on the road as well as minimizing the risk of employer liability. As a result, employers should consider the following precautions:
Recognize What is at Stake
When employees drive unsafely, not only do they threaten their own lives and the lives of others on the road, but there are a great many risks for employers who now may face:
• Psychological effects on employees and their coworkers;
• Decreased workplace productivity and lost time;
• Workers compensation claims;
• Increased insurance premiums;
• Possible litigation;
• Additional financial costs; and
• Penalties imposed by OSHA.
Research provided by OSHA shows that car crashes cost employers over $60 billion annually in medical care, legal expenses, property damage and lost productivity. Car crashes also increase the cost of workers’ compensation, Social Security and health insurance. The average crash costs an employer $16,500. An on the job crash resulting in an injury ends up costing an employer approximately $74,000.
Obtain Commitment from Upper Management and Supervisors
In order to main safety standards and a safe workplace culture with respect to driving, an employer must have the commitment from upper management and supervisors to set an example by abiding by the rules of the road and provide leadership. Upper management and supervisors should encourage all employees to drive safely and follow all rules of the road because of what is at stake.
Establish a Policy
It is essential for an employer to establish a written policy regarding safe driving that provides detailed guidance to employees and managers regarding road safety. The policy should include:
1. A prohibition on using alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription or over the counter drugs that impair one’s judgment, vision and ability to operate a motor vehicle should be strictly enforced.
2. A requirement that seat belts be used when operating an employer-provided vehicle, when on the employer’s property or when travelling on employer-related business.
3. A ban on using mobile devices for texting or talking while driving. The policy should make sure to comply with relevant state law regarding safe driving. Employees may be encouraged to use only speakers or Bluetooth while driving. However, some states even ban the use of a hands-free device while driving.
4. A warning to avoid driving when tired or drowsy as this may put drivers and others on the road at an increased risk. Frequent breaks should be encouraged to ensure drivers are well-rested. They also should avoid medications that interfere with one’s judgment.
5. An instruction to follow the rules of the road including speed limits and all traffic signs and laws.
6. A warning against aggressive driving and road rage when commuting or traveling for work.
7. A requirement that hazardous materials, substances and equipment are securely attached so they do not come loose and injure the driver, passengers or other third parties on the road.
8. A warning about driving in bad weather, snow and ice and asking employees to take extra safety measures.
9. The disciplinary consequences for violating the policy and driving in an unsafe manner.
The policy should be provided to all employees, and they should acknowledge receipt, consent to the terms and agree to follow the employer’s rules of the road. It should also be included in the employee handbook. The policy should be provided to new hires and updated as necessary.
It is important for an employers to provide training to all employees and managers on safe driving. The training should do the following:
• Recognize the signs of being too fatigued or too sick to drive;
• Explain the dangers of distracted driving;
• Convey how to spot minor car problems;
• Instruct employees on how to drive defensively;
• Explain to employees that safe driving is an essential part of maintaining a safe workforce;
• Warn employees to avoid road rage and aggressive driving;
• Provide procedures for reporting accidents and incidents with motor vehicles; and
• Warn employees about the consequences of unsafe driving.
Take Safety Precautions
An employer must take all necessary steps and safety precautions within its power to ensure employees are driving safely. This includes selecting, maintaining and routinely inspecting employer-provided vehicles to make sure they are safe. It is best practice for employers to select vehicles with a high safety rating as this may minimize risk and lead to increased safety on the road.
This also means running a motor vehicle check to ensure that all employees who are driving company vehicles on company business have a valid driver’s license, as well as using technology that can track and record employee driving performance and distraction.
Take Extra Steps to Prohibit Texting and Communications While Driving
With texting while driving becoming one of the leading causes of accidents today, employers must take extra precautions to ban texting and other communications while driving. This is especially true because employees may feel pressured to respond to the boss, a client or customer when they are operating a vehicle which can create grave danger and increase the risk for employer liability. Thus, an employer may want to:
• Make employees understand that communications while driving may not be good for business as an individual who is driving is not 100% focused, putting them at a strategic disadvantage to an individual who is working at a desk;
• Install applications in employer-provided devices that inhibit the use of mobile devices for texting and internet access while driving;
• Do not make it necessary for employees to text while driving in furtherance of their job duties; and
• Avoid sending emails or texts to individuals you know are behind the wheel as this could be distracting.
Establish a Reporting System for Incidents and Issues
An employer should make sure to establish a comprehensive system for reporting issues with vehicles as well as crashes, accidents and incidents. Once an incident or issue is reported, the employer should document it and initiate an investigation.
If an accident has occurred, the employer should look to see whether safety policies and procedures were followed. An employer also should closely examine the cause of a crash in order to learn from it and see if accidents may be prevented in the future.