According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 2,841 deaths have been reported in the United States in 2018 alone. Among those who have been killed include drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. As per statistics from the NHTSA, we currently have about 660,000 drivers who use their electronic devices while behind the wheel.
It only takes 3 seconds to get involved in an accident after being distracted. If it takes a minimum of 5 seconds for a driver to read or send a text message, can you imagine the potential danger that this presents? It is no wonder that distracted driving was the cause of more than half of the crashes that involved teenagers in 2019.
Have you ever experienced being a passenger and your taxi driver would receive calls from their family through mobile phone applications? How about being a passenger to a friend who was on a video call the entire time? I, for one, am lucky to not have been involved in any accidents due to distracted driving. However, some are unfortunately not as lucky.
In the next paragraphs, you will learn more about distracted driving–its causes, consequences, and how it can be lessened.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is when the driver loses his or her focus on the task at hand. Examples are texting, eating, or drinking while driving. According to the statistics mentioned above, the use of mobile phones is one of the most common distractions. In fact, it is the most distracting of them all. Sending or receiving a text message diverts your attention from the road for about 5 seconds. As mentioned, it takes only 3 seconds for a car crash to happen right after the driver is distracted.
Safe driving means giving your full attention to driving. It means not being distracted even for just a millisecond. Safe driving means focusing a hundred percent. You cannot divide your attention between two or more things.
What are the causes of distracted driving?
1. Talking and texting.
The most common cause of car accidents is distracted driving–with mobile phones as the distraction. According to the National Safety Council, 26% of all accidents involve mobile phones. Texting or talking on the phone is especially dangerous as it not only briefly catches your attention, but also causes you to multitask.
As you already know, 26% of all car crashes are caused by the use of mobile phones; this does not exclude navigation applications.
You might even know a few people who program their GPS to their destination after starting to drive. Doing this is definitely no different from texting or reading a message while driving.
3. Adjusting music or controls.
Sometimes, extreme outside temperatures can leave us feeling suffocated from the heat or freezing. Circumstances like this naturally lead us to adjust the temperature. Otherwise, we won’t be able to concentrate on driving either.
Although this is understandable, we have to admit, it is still risky. So, the best thing to do is to drive the vehicle to the side of the road before adjusting the temperature.
The same goes when someone at the back is suggesting to change the music. Pushing a button or two will still divert your attention from driving to something else. One press of a button may change your life and others’ forever.
4. Applying makeup.
We all want to look good, but there is a right time and place for everything. Grooming yourself while driving is the most unnecessary reason for you to be in or cause an accident.
Whether it’s applying makeup, brushing your hair, or simply making sure you look good by using the rearview mirror, do it before you start driving or after you’ve safely parked your car.
Surely, you wouldn’t want to try to look good be the reason why you don’t get to show up at your destination. Waking up a little bit earlier won’t hurt.
5. Talking to passengers.
A lot of drivers, specifically taxi drivers in my experience, use avoiding boredom and sleepiness as an excuse to talk to passengers while driving.
While this may be true, it is still not an excuse to be driving while distracted.
Bored? Make yourself busy by making sure you are keeping a safe distance from the car in front of you. Check the rearview mirror–make sure the car behind you is at a safe distance. Check the side mirrors so you do not get startled by a speeding or overtaking vehicle.
Sleepy? Stop driving and find a place you can park and take a nap. You should not be driving while you’re sleepy in the first place.
6. Handling children or pets.
Before we start driving, we know what the situation is going to be like. We know how many passengers we will have. We certainly know if these passengers need supervision or not.
So, if you need to bring children or pets with you, make sure you take someone with you. Make sure that whoever comes along is capable of holding them still or entertaining them.
I understand that single parents will sometimes have a hard time doing this, but it is for everyone’s safety. There are a lot of daycare centers available. Leaving your child there while you run some errands once in a while will make a big difference.
7. Zoning out.
Zoning out is inevitable. It can be a result of a lack of sleep, a personal problem, or a mental health disorder. Whatever it may be, it may be best to consider other options.
Try taking the subway or riding a taxi, even if it will be more inconvenient. Remember, safety first.
8. Not looking at the road.
All of the previously stated causes of distracted driving result in looking away from the road. When this happens, vehicles get hit even when parked or at a full stop.
It is why all sorts of automobiles crash into trees, poles, and even water hydrants. Worst of all, this is why pedestrians get run over. It is not a pretty picture, but it is reality.
There are a lot of ways to prevent these things from happening. All we need to do is take things seriously. We need to accept the fact that distracted driving is not at all petty and it can cost lives. Keeping ourselves and others educated is one big step forward.
What are the consequences of distracted driving?
- Death or injury
According to Smith System, a fleet driver safety training organization, about 2.5 million distracted drivers cause car accidents each year. Around 1,000 people are injured and 9 people die in distracted driving car crashes everyday.
In addition, case studies report texting and distracted driving are responsible for 1.6 million car crashes with nearly 390,000 reported injuries.
2. Disruption in business operations
Disruptions in business operations are obviously very much of a hassle to the business owners and their clients. One example is having a delivery truck involved in a car crash. Not only will there be a delay in the delivery of goods; but there is also the risk of the good service reputation being tarnished.
Obviously, a delivery truck that will need to be repaired cannot be used in operations. If there is a limited number of trucks available, or if all the trucks in the fleet are fully booked, delays in providing services will surely be inevitable.
Distracted driving has caused not just inconveniences for a lot of people, but also injuries and even deaths.
Laws about distracted driving may differ from state to state, but one thing is for sure–it is not tolerated. Especially when someone is seriously injured or killed, the person at fault can face serious fines and lawsuits in some states.
Where a driver is an employee and was driving for work purposes, it is very possible that the business gets sued for negligent hiring.
Here are seven ways to discourage distracted driving and improve employee safety:
1. Maintain a strict hiring policy about checking the MVR
Make sure that every potential hire’s motor vehicle record is reviewed very carefully. Strictly following the company’s hiring policy is very important. Qualifications should be set in place and followed to the letter.
Be sure you do not hire drivers who have more than one moving violation in a year if the policy allows only one violation in two years.
Being strict about checking the MVR will surely lessen the chances of hiring someone who has unsafe driving practices.
2. Check the driving history.
Regularly check the driving history of your employees does two things:
- The drivers become more careful because they know it might affect their employment.
- It gives the employer the opportunity to spot and correct possible behavioral issues.
3. Educate the workforce.
One of the most important ways to discourage distracted driving is education.
Painting a picture helps them better understand how serious the consequences can be. Let them know of the most recent statistics. Keep them updated about accidents caused by distracted driving and let them know the reason for distracted driving.
Passing on the knowledge to the unknowledgeable or the ignorant and really making them understand will surely save at least one life. It might be cliche, but “prevention is better than cure.”
4. Implement a continuous training program.
The company should have a training program in place to ensure that the drivers are up-to-date when it comes to driving rules and regulations.
Make sure that all your drivers have taken a defensive driving course and review defensive driving methods on a regular basis.
5. Come up with a reward system.
Reward employees who always wear their seat belts and never violate speed limits. Positive reinforcement works.
6. Discourage bringing unnecessary electronic devices to work.
Electronic gadgets that aren’t needed for work are best left at home or in office lockers.
Having them around will only tempt the driver to check social media, play games, or watch videos.
7. Share these safety driving tips with your drivers.
Never drive while tired or sleepy.
Make sure you’ve had a good night’s rest or at least a decent number of hours of sleep before driving. Dozing off while on the road will definitely make it hard to control the steering wheel. That isn’t exactly the best way to go.
Never use your mobile phone while driving.
Put your mobile phones inside the compartment or your bag, and make sure to put them on silent mode.
Texting or talking on the phone while driving will not only distract you; it can also get you in trouble. This means getting a ticket if you’re lucky. And getting injured or a lawsuit, if a bit more unfortunate, and death if we’re gonna talk about extremes.
Never drive while under the influence of any substance.
Being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs is already unsafe even when you’re not driving, what more if you are. And remember, it’s not just illegal drugs.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, even some people who take prescription medications are not allowed or encouraged to drive.
Never try to groom yourself while driving.
Waking up a little earlier to start the day isn’t all that bad, especially when your life depends on it.
Grooming yourself, such as combing your hair, applying makeup, and the like while driving will make you divert your attention to something else. Doing this will still divide your attention and make you lose focus in doing what you should be doing in the first place — driving. This is still applicable even when you’ve stopped for a red light.
Always pull over to reach for things.
Reaching for something even if it’s right beside you will still derail your focus from literally just driving.
Always make sure to pull over whenever you find yourself thinking of trying to reach for something.
Check the tires, batteries, coolant, and brakes.
Check the brakes and make sure the tires are in good shape every day. This should be done every single time the vehicle is going to be used.
The same goes with making sure you have an extra tire in case of a flat, and extra coolant in case the engine overheats.
Check that you have everything in place before you start driving.
Make sure to check everything before you start driving.
This means waking up extra early to finish your morning routine:
- Have breakfast and finish grooming.
- Program your GPS to your destination–double check if it’s set correctly.
- Place your phone somewhere you can’t see it and put it on silent mode. Have your wallet within arm’s reach so that it is within arm’s reach should you need it for parking or toll fees.
Checking if everything is all set will help you drive at ease, therefore also helping with avoiding anxiousness and losing focus.
What is most tragic about road accidents is that they can cost lives. As a business, it is your responsibility to make sure you hire “safe” drivers, and to ensure they remain that way.
Part of how this can be achieved is by having a system in place that encourages safe driving. At the same time, having checks and balances in place will allow management to pinpoint any potential problem. Doing so opens the opportunity for preventive and corrective measures.
As important as technical skills are, we should also think about helping our employees realize the social responsibility attached to their job. There are a lot of ways to prevent unnecessary accidents. Implementing these preventive measures will not harm anyone. In fact, avoiding these accidents will save a lot of people a lot of pain. But this can be achieved only if we try.
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