Distracted Driving Awareness Takes Priority in April

By Don Talend April 24th, 2023

The National Safety Council (NSC) reports that at least eight Americans are killed in distracted driving crashes every day. By raising employees’ distracted driving self-awareness and implementing corrective on-the-job driving policies, employers can play a significant role in combatting this growing problem.

As the consultant to 45 group captives serving more than 6,000 member-companies — including many in the transportation industry or with commercial fleets — we’re committed to helping members mitigate this growing public safety hazard. To that end, we want to support the NSC in getting the word out about the dangers of distracted driving and point our readers toward its valuable resources designed to make our roads safer.

The True Nature of Distracted Driving

The NSC defines distracted driving as inattention that occurs when drivers divert their attention to focus on another activity. There is a tendency to equate distracted driving with the use of electronic devices such as cell phones, but activities like eating or talking to passengers are other common causes.

The recent addition of technologies in vehicles has added new distractions to driving. There are four types of driving distractions, according to the NSC:

  • Manual: Tasks that require the driver to take a hand off the steering wheel and manipulate a device.
  • Visual: Tasks that require the driver to look away from the roadway.
  • Visual/Manual: Tasks that draw the eyes and a hand off the steering wheel to manipulate a device.
  • Cognitive: The mental workload associated with a task that involves thinking about something other than driving.

According to the NSC, at times, a busier vehicle interior environment can create cognitive distractions that are not readily apparent. The NSC points out that the human brain is not capable of multitasking. Instead, the brain constantly switches between the two tasks without dedicating complete focus to either one.

Using hands-free devices such as a Bluetooth headset or an in-vehicle information system (IVIS) to talk on a cell phone, for example, doesn’t prevent cognitive distraction, according to the NSC. On the contrary, these technologies can create a false sense of security. The NSC points out that both driving and cell phone conversations require a great deal of thought. During a cell phone conversation, the driver’s diminished attention can result in delayed braking time or a missed traffic signal — and a crash. With that in mind, the NSC recommends that drivers use their cell phone or IVIS only when their vehicle is safely parked.

Company Policies and NSC Awareness Resources

Because current public awareness of the true nature of distracted driving lags behind the actual risk, the NSC encourages employers to address this problem by enacting a distracted driving policy that bans:

  • All employee use of mobile devices while driving on or off the job, including hands-free devices and IVIS.
  • Phone meetings and other communications with employees while they are driving.

Also, employers can take advantage of many NSC resources to increase employees’ driving safety and attention to their susceptibility to distracted driving during Distracted Driving Awareness Month and throughout the year:

  • A social media kit with prewritten posts and tweets employers can use to help spread the word about distracted driving prevention and the NSC’s #JustDrive campaign with their LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter communities, including employees.
  • A distracted driving policy template.
  • A Safe Driving Employer Toolkit for safety and human resources professionals that includes information that increases awareness of distracted driving risks.
  • Posters highlighting hidden distractions and how employees can avoid them.

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