April 2017 Newsletter: Flip the Conversation: Speak Up When Others Around You Are Distracted

Our Driving Concern Program Manager Lisa Robinson speaks to issues and concerns all employers face when trying to make their workforce safe on the road:

When you next talk about distracted driving with your employees, try a new approach. Think of driver distraction in a global sense. And think of breaking from the norm. Think of empowering your employees to hold co-workers accountable. Encourage them to speak up and say something to their co-worker, especially when the co-worker’s choice is one that puts them or others harm’s way.

Q: What types of things distract drivers?

A: Newspapers and books. Yes. Personal grooming, including applying mascara and brushing teeth while behind the wheel. You bet. Social media, including Facebook and the streaming of videos. Yep. Hot coffee, messy burgers. Yikes! Anything that takes your attention away from focusing on the road is a distraction.

What happens to almost all of us is we get trapped in our daily routines. If one of those routines involves catching up with friends and colleagues on the phone while you are driving, you are putting yourself and others in danger. Cell phones are a leading cause of driver distraction. Hands-free devices are not risk-free because your brain remains distracted long after you’ve finished using voice commands. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety indicates mental distraction can persist for up to 27 seconds.

Think of what you might miss during that time. A stop sign? A pedestrian? The roadway is an extension of the workplace. In April, during Distracted Driving Awareness Month, help draw attention to this epidemic. In Oklahoma, more than 1,500 crashes are linked to electronic devices every year. Nationally, more than 3,000 people die every year in distracted driving incidents.

Employers bear the brunt of crash costs whether incidents occur on or off the job. In fact, more than 80% of employer fringe benefits costs are linked to off-the-job behaviors, including crashes involving employee family members. At your workplace, you can drive behavior change by looking at distraction in a new light. Share these suggestions with your employees:

  • Get up 10 minutes early, attend to personal grooming, eat breakfast and drink your coffee before you hit the road
  • In your vehicle, put your phone in a safe and secure place, well out of reach

The idea is to break from routine. City and state laws are changing with regard to cell phone bans. Texting while driving is prohibited in many places. Are you changing? Are you part of the problem or part of the solution? Many employers have enacted safe driving policies to protect their employees and protect themselves from liability in the event of a crash. Does your workplace have a policy?

Having an employee safe driving policy is something that is very clear for your employees to understand. It is very important for employees to know what your expectations are, the rules to follow and the consequences of breaking the rules.

Let Us Help: Sample Safe Driving Policy. Webinar: Driving Distraction-Free and Defensively.

Nobody wants to be called to a crash scene. Flip the conversation. If it’s “not me” engaging in risky behavior behind the wheel, then who is it making up those crash numbers? Raise the point any driver could do something unexpected at any moment. Ask: Do you trust the guy or gal in the lane next to you?

No? Then, put the phone away so you can respond to risks other drivers take. If not you, it could be a family member driving/riding in the lane next to someone or on the roadway someone making risky choices. We are a part of the solution.

You Asked & I Delivered: E-Learning Will Make Traffic Safety Training Easy

Our Driving Concern Program Manager Lisa Robinson talks constantly with Oklahoma employers. One of her questions: What tools and resources do you need to make traffic safety a regular part of your workplace safety culture?

She has learned, “Employers want a variety of ways to reach their employers. Employer needs are unique — but all like online learning as one option.”

And she delivers the goods through the  Our Driving Concern program.

For example, online learning. Two of our new e-Learning modules debut this month on the Our Driving Concern website. These interactive five-minute lessons on distracted driving and drowsy driving are fully compatible with your mobile device. So, they are good for use anytime, anywhere.

In the distracted driving intro, you will learn about a surprising rising. Later, you’ll meet Babblin’ Betsy. Finally, you’ll watch “Calls Kill” – a brief video – and take the Myth of Multi-Tasking test. Four more modules are on their way: Aggressive Driving, Impaired Driving, Passenger Restraint and What Employers Can Do.

One employer has shared with me plans to use e-Learning in team meetings. Think outside the box on how to use the tools in your toolbox.

Arm Yourself with Tools to Reduce Incidents of Drunk & Drugged Driving

In 2015, 29.1% of all deaths on Oklahoma roads occurred in alcohol-related crashes, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. A number of groups and organizations are working to solve the problem of drunk and drugged driving, including MAAD-Oklahoma.

The organization has crafted a letter in support of a Senate bill that would require use of interlocks for drunk drivers during a license revocation in order to regain driving privileges. Twenty-eight states and Washington, D.C., have similar laws.

Oklahoma residents are asked to sign the letter and send it to decision-makers. An interlock device is wired into the ignition system of a vehicle. If an interlock user is drunk, the vehicle will not start.

What is happening elsewhere?

What can you do at your workplace?

Stormin’ Norman? Join us at Oklahoma Safety & Health Conference

Consider this your invitation: Join more than 500 fellow safety and health professionals during the Oklahoma Safety and Health Conference June 21-23 in Norman.

The conference, which is hosted by the Oklahoma Safety Council, the Oklahoma Department of Labor and the Oklahoma City chapter of the American Society of Safety Engineers, will be at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center.

Attendees will be able to pick from pre-conference workshops and 36 hot-topic learning sessions to gain insight and information for their own safety programs. Register online at oksafety.org.

Workplace Steps to Prevent Drowsy Driving Incidents

I recently attended a conference on fatigue and found it interesting that NASA has been researching fatigue since 1993. Fatigue and drowsy driving both can impact an employer and, if it is not on your radar, it should be.

Fatigue is described as “The Silent Killer” in an animated video produced by the National Safety Council. Watch and share this ideal at your workplace: If You’re Aware of it, Take Care of It.”

Nearly 83.6 million sleep-deprived Americans can be found on a typical day in the workplace, at school and on the road, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The consequences can be deadly. Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows more than 5,000 people died in drowsy driving crashes in 2015.

According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 25 adult drivers (age 18 or older) reported falling asleep while driving in the 30 days before they were questioned.

Do you know any of them? Take steps at your workplace to prevent incidents. Start by recognizing drowsy driving risk factors, including these five highlighted by the National Sleep Foundation:

  • Driving on less than seven hours of sleep
  • Driving at a time when usually sleeping, such as at night
  • Traveling frequently through different time zones
  • Having an untreated sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea
  • Working multiple shifts or night shifts

Three more ways for you to protect employees and protect your bottom line:

Wash Away Driving Hazards During Spring Cleaning

Can’t see out the windshield because it is raining buckets and your wipers are worn?

Take this bit of friendly advice from AARP and share it with your workforce: Spring showers and flowers often are joined by a handful of seasonal driving hazards. Employers can save money and save lives by reducing traffic incidents.

During the spring, review these tips from AARP to reduce risk of hazards:

  1. Avoid driving through large puddles: Driving through water can impair your brakes, cloud your vision or cause you to hydroplane. Wet pavement accounted for 73% of weather-related crashes from 2005-2014, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
  2. Share the road: Just as humans come out of hibernation following the winter months, so too are animals more active. Be on the lookout, particularly at dawn and dusk. Driving alongside motorcyclists and bicyclists can be tricky. Also, watch for pedestrians.
  3. Understand the impact of medications on driving: Seasonal allergies often kick in during springtime. Over-the-counter allergy drugs can have side effects or interact with other medications to diminish your driving ability.

Some safety tips to post on your bulletin board or share via your intranet service:

  • Check your lights: Spring rain hinders visibility
  • Replace your wiper blades: Best to do this at least once a year
  • Check your tire pressure: Winter weather can deflate tires

More driving basics: Out of the Way of Trains

With spring in the air, many people think it is pretty cool to take senior pictures, family pictures and engagement pictures on railroad tracks. Did you know that it is illegal to do just that? Railroad tracks, trestles, yards and equipment are private property. Walking or playing on tracks is not only dangerous, it is prohibited. Trespassers can be arrested and fined – but the ultimate penalty is death.

The ONLY legal, safe place to cross tracks is at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings. Observe and obey all warning signs and signals.

Operation Lifesaver has a lot of great information.

Our Free Training Can Help You Reduce Costs of Crashes

Coming soon: Free employer training.

Given the enormous expense associated with crashes and injuries, it is necessary to train your employees to drive safely and develop a company-wide traffic safety program. About half of all crash-related injuries result in days away from work, which can greatly impact employer costs, including:

  • Health, life and disability insurance premiums
  • Liability insurance
  • Contributions to workers’ compensation medical and disability insurance

To request training at your workplace, email [email protected]. Also, if you’re planning a safety event and need free materials and/or resources, we can ship items your way. All you have to do is complete this form.

Who Pays for Distracted Driving? Look in the Mirror, Find the Answer

Employers pay for crashes whether they occur on or off the job. Employees spend hard-earned wages to pay for their own car insurance. Costs continue to rise all the way around, due in no small part to distracted driving.

AAA says 87% of drivers indicated they have engaged in at least one risky behavior while behind the wheel within the last month, those risky behaviors ranging from distracted driving, impaired driving and drowsy driving to running red lights, speeding or not wearing seat belts. State Farm says 36% of all drivers text and drive, and it’s making everyone’s costs go up, according to a NBC News report.

“Every American is going to pay more because of the distracted driving epidemic,” said Robert Hartwig in the report. Hartwig is co-director of the Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management at the University of South Carolina. “That’s because no fault can be attributed … people who are driving distracted aren’t going to admit to it. So what winds up happening is these costs are imposed on the system overall.”

Read the full report: Your Car Insurance Rates Are Going Up Because Everyone Keeps Texting and Driving. Watch: Gluten Free Texting. Ask: Really?

Driver Basics: Yes, There is a Right Way to Make a Left Turn

One way to reach employees and impact your workplace bottom line is through driver basics.

On occasion, spend a few minutes on intersections and turns. These three points are covered under Oklahoma Statutes:

  1. An improper left turn on a two-way roadway occurs if the approach for the left turn is not made in the portion of the right half of the roadway nearest to the center line. The turn must be made by passing to the right of the center line where it enters the intersection and after entering the intersection, the left turn must be made so as to leave the intersection to the right of the center line of the roadway being entered.
  2. An improper left turn on a road other than a two-way roadway occurs when the driver does not approach the intersection in the extreme left lane lawfully available for traffic. The turn is also improper if after entering the intersection, the turn is not made so as to leave the intersection as nearly as practicable in the left lane lawfully available to traffic moving in such direction upon the roadway being entered.
  3. A driver is guilty of making an improper right turn if the approach for the right turn, or the turn itself is not made as close as practicable to the right curb, or edge of the roadway.

Your Choice: Will You Be Spending Seis de Mayo Behind Bars?

To create awareness of drunk driving on Cinco de Mayo, the National Highway Traffic Safety Adminstration is making campaign materials available so you can participate in a prevention initiative at your workplace.

You also can also print and post our free handouts or posters.

About one-third of all vehicle fatalities involve a drunk driver. All of them are preventable. The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office has created an infographic that tackles issues relating to alcohol and driving: Knowing the truth may save your life.

Plan for a safe ride home.