According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the leading cause of job fatalities in the United States is Traffic Accidents. In light of that alarming report, employers should be aware that their responsibilities not only lie in managing on-site risks to workers, they also include ensuring the safety of their employees on the road. Designing and implementing an effective and comprehensive motor safety plan that incorporates the following principles will help to promote better road safety and reduce the risk of a traffic-related accident.
Motor Safety Program
To begin, owners and general managers of organizations should build a Motor Safety Program that encourages and reinforces employee's safety for both themselves and others on the road. This program should be the result of six key components:
- Leadership: Company leaders should commit to road safety plans and lead by example, following all protocols and procedures. *Company leaders must be tolerant and understanding to lateness when the reasons are beyond the driver's control.
- Expectations: Employees should be given a written copy of all protocols and procedures. (Incorporate the Driving Safety Tips below)
- Vehicle Maintenance: Decision-makers should select vehicles with high safety ratings and schedule regular maintenance and inspections.
- Constant Improvement: Data collected from vehicles, public reports, and employee suggestions should be used to maximize the effectiveness of a motor safety plan.
- Repetition: The key to any safety protocol's success is the day-in, day-out commitment to the plan. You can accomplish this by posting safety rules and tips in employee lounges, presenting annual safety seminars to your staff to remind them of the risk and review of unsafe work practices, distributing pamphlets and review the main points in employee meetings and lastly sending monthly emails and texts, or any other method you may have to reinforce the importance of employee safety.
It's helpful to remind your employees of both the "what" and the "why" of good driving behavior. For instance, wearing a seatbelt is the obvious first line of safety, but it is often and easily taken for granted. Why should everyone wear a seat belt? Because you decrease your risk of a severe to moderate injury by 50% and a fatal injury by 45% if you are involved in a serious accident. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death in virtually every major industry group, according to insurance industry reports.
Beware of emotionally heated or spirited interactions with other passengers. These account for accidents 53% of the time, making it a majority of causes.
Beware of the false sense of safety when using hands-free technology in cars and trucks. Hands-free devices still require the engagement of the activity area of the brain that process moving images. This engagement decreases by up to one third the ability to process moving images significantly.
Safe Driving Rewards: Your Bottom Line
Motor vehicle crashes cost employers $60 billion annually in medical care, legal expenses, property damage, and lost productivity, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, also driving up the cost of benefits such as workers' compensation, Social Security and private health and disability insurance. The DOL also noted the expense of the increase in company overhead needed to administer these programs.
The DOL also reported that the average crash costs an employer $16,500. "When a worker has an on-the-job crash that results in an injury, the cost to their employer is $74,000. Costs can exceed $500,000 when a fatality is involved. Off-the-job crashes are costly to employers as well."
Finally, it should be noted that many crashes are largely preventable. Employers have the opportunity to help save lives. Recognizing this, an increasing number of employers have designed Motor Safety Plans for their companies. If you are responsible for your organization's bottom line, you cannot afford to ignore a major problem that has such a serious impact on both their personnel and the company budget.
Driving Safety Tips1
- Wear a seat belt at all times.
- Make necessary adjustments to your car before you begin to drive (e.g., adjust controls, program directions)
- Do not text or use a hand-held phone while driving.
- Avoid emotional conversations with passengers, or pull over in a safe location to continue the conversation. For normal conversation, passengers in the vehicle can often help lower crash risk for adult drivers.
- Pullover to a safe location if you must send a text or make a call.
- Drive respectfully by focusing on the driving environment — the vehicles around you, pedestrians, cyclists, and objects or events that may mean you need to act quickly to control or stop your vehicle.
- Do not reach to pick up items from the floor, open the glove box, or try to catch falling objects.
- Follow all traffic laws, speed limits, and road authorities' directions.
- Be alert to changing road conditions, weather conditions, or detours.
- Avoid aggressive driving by allowing plenty of time to reach your destination, planning routes to avoid congested areas, moving out of an aggressive driver's way, and being patient with other drivers.
5 Dingus TA, Guo F, Lee S, Antin JF, Perez M, Buchanan-King M, Hankey J . Driver crash risk factors and prevalence evaluation using naturalistic driving data. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113(10):2636-2641.\