Important to Switch Gears: Talk about Choices We Make Behind the Wheel
Our Driving Concern Senior Program Manager Lisa Robinson speaks to issues and concerns all employers face when trying to make their workforce safe on the road.
Q: Do you talk about choices as they relate to traffic safety? Do you understand how risky driver behaviors can affect liability exposure at your workplace?
A: Let’s examine why your answer here should be yes on all counts and tie the explanation to the importance of staying focused behind the wheel during Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April.
In Oklahoma, 11 fatal crashes, 662 injury crashes and 1,047 non-injury crashes involved a driver distracted by an electronic device in 2016, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. Most of these crashes occur between 4 and 8 p.m., when employees often are returning home from work or running family members to and from events.
Employers pay for crashes whether they occur on or off the job. Now, think beyond the dollars and try to make sense of the wreckage. The human toll is one that cannot be quantified. Much of the pain comes as a result of our own choices, including cell phone use while behind the wheel.
Research indicates distraction persists long after you finish using voice commands to make a call or send a text. Your mind is still on the phone. This phenomenon is known as “inattention blindness.” Think of it as driving blindfolded. Would you trust yourself – let alone others – to do that?
Teach at your workplace: Use an app to block calls. Protect yourself and all those around you on the road. Doing so can protect your organization, too. Watch: Why Every Workplace Needs a Cell Phone Policy.
On April 19, join us for a free webinar: Engaging Ways to Address Distracted Driving at Work. MedStar Mobile Healthcare Risk and Safety Manager Shaun Curtis and I will highlight opportunities to involve your workforce in the fight against distracted driving.
Distraction is anything that diverts your attention away from the task at hand – driving.
- Manual distractions: eating, drinking and grooming
- Cognitive distractions: talking on the phone (handheld or hands-free) and daydreaming
Some other ways you can connect with your staff:
- Share: Dead Man Talking
- Learn: Hands-Free is Not Risk-Free
- Upload to your workplace video monitor: Distracted Driving: Your Employees Can Protect Themselves & Others
R2-D2 Might Be Immune to Effects of Energy Drinks, But What about You?
When talking about fatigue, National Safety Council Senior Program Manager Emily Whitcomb said she is asked by almost every employer about the effects of energy drinks on employees, particularly the younger crowd.
“This is a common concern,” Whitcomb said. “While caffeine can help with short-term alertness, abusing energy drinks affects one’s health and often disrupts their sleep.”
Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each day to reach peak performance levels. Nearly one-third report averaging less than six hours, resulting in fatigue.
Fatigue on the road can lead to drowsy driving. NSC research shows:
- You are three times more likely to be in a car crash if you are fatigued
- Losing even two hours of sleep is similar to the effect of having three beers
- Being awake for more than 20 hours is the equivalent of being legally drunk
Most people don’t recognize when they are tired. Tiredness often is the result of a monotonous task – like a daily commute to and from work. This is known as time-on-task fatigue.
Try the free NSC Fatigue Cost Calculator. The calculator will estimate how much fatigue is costing your workplace.
Share Walking Safety Tips in Effort to Reverse Rise in Pedestrian Fatalities
As the weather warms in April, more people will be spending time outdoors. Some of your employees will walk to work and others will walk during their lunch break to get a little exercise. You can remind them of walking safety tips and talk about factors that have led to a spike in pedestrian traffic fatalities.
A Governors Highway Safety Association report shows pedestrian fatalities increased 27% from 2007 to 2016, while all other traffic deaths decreased by 14%. GHSA research indicates:
- Pedestrian deaths as a percentage of total motor vehicle crash deaths increased from 11% in 2007 to 16% in 2016; prior to 2016, it had been 33 years (1983) since pedestrians accounted for such a large proportion of all traffic fatalities
- States that legalized recreational marijuana between 2012 and 2016 had a collective 16.4% increase in pedestrian fatalities in the first six months of 2017; all other states experienced a 5.8% decrease
In a look at pedestrian fatalities by state per 100,000 population, Oklahoma had the 12th-highest pedestrian fatality rate (2.32). New Mexico had the highest pedestrian fatality rate (3.45) and Nebraska the lowest (0.68).
Distracted walking is another factor that contributes to injuries and near-misses. Safety tips to share at your workplace:
- Apply the “be here now” concept when walking to recognize and avoid distractions
- Wear shoes that are slip-resistant and that provide support to the ankle
- Don’t carry too much — you need your arms to maintain balance and stability
Share with your team: Distracted Walking: The Growing Phone-Related Danger
Teach Today’s Safety Features as Tomorrow’s Tech is Scrutinized
If you are wondering why some companies at the forefront of driverless technology have been slow – or unwilling – to respond publicly to the Uber crash in Tempe, AZ, where a pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle operating in robot mode, the answer is they are waiting for answers.
“They’re saying, let’s take a deep breath while the matter is sorted out,” said Michael Sitrick, head of a crisis management and public relations firm, in an article published by the Los Angeles Times.
In a statement, National Safety Council President and CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said, “The promise of self-driving vehicles is still real. Technology has the potential to solve old problems, but safety must be the first consideration – it cannot take a back seat to innovation.”
While investigations into what happened in Tempe move forward and testing of driverless technology continues to unfold, one of the best ways employers can connect with employees is by providing continuing education on today’s vehicle safety features.
- Forward-collision prevention
- Braking, tire pressure and anti-rollover
- Driver-state monitoring and communication
- Parking and backing assistance
- Lane and side assisting
As for the future, find the answer to your question: Are we there yet?
Dept. of Labor Wants to Help You Celebrate Safety
Safety should be celebrated. To that end, the Oklahoma Department of Labor invites Oklahoma employers to apply for the Safety Award for Excellence (SAFE).
Awards will be presented in four categories:
- Small employers (100 employees or less)
- Medium employers (101-300 employees)
- Large employers (more than 300 employees)
- Public organizations (city, county, state, public schools, public trusts, etc.)
The deadline to apply is June 1. Entries will be judged on the following:
- Safety solutions
- Engineering innovation
- Training programs
- Creating an awareness-raising activity and/or other risk control measures that reduce the risk of work-related injury and illness
Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston will present the SAFE awards at the Labor Safety & Health Conference July 18-20 at the Renaissance Hotel & Conference Center in Tulsa.
Get your application: SAFE awards.
Call Attention to Safe Driving in Work Zones
In Oklahoma, motorists are about 20 times more likely to die in work zone crashes than Oklahoma Department of Transportation employees. From 2012 to 2016, 75 people died in work zone crashes across the state, according to ODOT. Four were ODOT workers, the rest were everyday motorists.
Share this information at your workplace as your prepare for National Work Zone Awareness Week April 9-13. Also, share “Safety Tips to Live By” from ODOT, including:
- Set aside distractions: Avoid using mobile phones
- Buckle up: Safety belts save lives
- Don’t speed: Note the posted speed limits in and around the work zone
‘It’s Not Impossible — It Just Hasn’t Been Done Yet’
In the March issue of Behind the Wheel at Work, the quarterly eNewsletter from the NIOSH Center for Motor Vehicle Safety, Road to Zero is one of six things shared with readers under the heading, “Take Action.”
“The aim of Road to Zero is to get to zero deaths by 2050,” National Safety Council President & CEO Deborah A.P. Hersman said. “It’s not impossible – it just hasn’t been done yet.”
Road to Zero was launched by NSC, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Motor Carrier Administration in October 2016. Today, more than 600 members have joined the coalition in an effort to end traffic fatalities on U.S. roads.
Learn more on the Road to Zero webpage or in the NIOSH eNewsletter, which answers the questions:
- Why the Road to Zero Coalition?
- What guides the Road to Zero Coalition?
- What’s the link to motor vehicle safety at work?
CDC Tool Calculates Cost of Crashes
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is looking for employers to introduce the newest version of its traffic safety tool to state decision-makers. The tool, Motor Vehicle Prioritizing Interventions and Cost Calculator for States (MV PICCS 3.0), enables users to get state-level recommendations on which interventions would prevent the most injuries, save the most lives and be the most cost effective.