August 2017 Newsletter: Phone Distractions Extend Beyond White Lines on the Side of the Road

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:

Admit it, you have laughed at the videos of distracted walkers.

It’s funny to watch the texting woman in a Chinese shopping mall fall into the fountain. It’s not so funny if you are absorbing the brunt of costs associated with injuries that result from these types of incidents. Employers are paying for more and more injuries related to phone distractions.

Q: Do you have employees that walk at lunch? Or as part of a health and wellness program sponsored by your organization? Do you have salesmen that walk as part of their job — to-and-from their car? Someone who goes to the post office or office supply store — walking from the parking lot to the building? Or employees that ride their bikes to work?

A: Sure you do. People walk and ride bikes all time, some for work, others for fun. Distractions – specifically texting and talking on cell phones – have contributed to a rise in injuries and fatalities involving pedestrians and cyclists across the nation.

Employers are impacted whether an employee or an employee’s family member is injured. Off-the-job crashes account for more than 80% of employer crash-related health benefit costs. Half of crash-related injuries cause employees to miss work.

In Oklahoma, 758 pedestrians were involved in crashes on state roads in 2015, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. Sixty-eight people were killed – 16 more than in 2014 – and 617 were injured. In addition, six bicyclists were killed and 284 were injured.

In New York, Courtney Merriman lost her 92-year-old grandfather in a distracted driving crash. He was walking across the road when he was hit by a truck driver who had been talking on the phone for 26 minutes.

Two words can help solve this problem: Pay attention. It should be easy, but from some it’s not that easy. Some people are literally addicted to their phones. Drivers are looking at their phones, walkers are looking at their phones and, inevitably, somebody gets hit. Crashes rarely end well for pedestrians. Pay attention to your primary task whether that is walking or driving.

Some pedestrians put themselves at risk. In fact, a Governors Highway Safety Association report revealed 82% of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. occur outside of intersections. The majority occurred in travel lanes (72%), or outside travel lanes, such as shoulders and driveways (10%).

What can you do at your workplace to protect your organization and protect your employees? Create awareness of the risks involved with distracted driving and distracted walking through continuing education. We are happy to provide some tools that will help:

  • The Problem of Distracted Walking: Here you will find safety tips, including the concept of “be here now,” that you will want to share with employees
  • Posters and Tip Sheets: One of our most popular posters is, “Dead Man Talking;” post it on your bulletin board or distribute via intranet
  • Sample Driving Policy: This document addresses concern over aggressive driving, distracted driving, impaired driving and seat belt use; at the end, there is a place for employee acknowledgement of company policy, signature required

If it helps, pull your workforce in with something humorous. Then, get down to the business of saving money and saving lives.

Essential for Employers to Know Impact of Crashes: Live with Lisa

In the latest Live with Lisa vlog, Our Driving Concern Senior Program Manager Lisa Robinson recognizes traffic safety is not sexy. Nor is it particularly fun to talk about. That said, she points out it is essential for employers to know how crashes impact their bottom line.

Start with this: When an employee misses work because of a crash, employer’s experience a decline in productivity. And it’s going to happen.

According to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, there were 23,453 injury crashes statewide in 2015 — and 590 fatal crashes.

Watch/Share at Your Workplace: How Risky Driving Behaviors Impact Your Bottom Line.

New Law, Old Rule: Camping Out is for Under the Stars, Not the Left Lane

A new Oklahoma law takes effect Nov. 1 that is bound to impact your employees and drivers. The law will require drivers on divided highways to move over from the left lane after passing a slower-moving vehicle or be ticketed $235.

The idea is to leave the left lane open for emergency vehicles and to create a more courteous driver environment by discouraging left-lane camping. A so-called “slow-poke” left-lane driver can intentionally or unintentionally incite road rage and frustration, tailgating and passing on the right. In a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, 78% of U.S. drivers reported having engaged in at least one aggressive driving behavior in the past year.

Road rage is a form of aggressive driving defined as a physical assault of a person or vehicle as a result of a traffic incident. The act of road rage is a criminal offense, punishable by jail time. AAA says 11.9% of drivers have cut off another vehicle on purpose.

Opinion surveys show motorists rate aggressive driving as a top threat to highway safety, yet many do not see their own behavior as aggressive. What about your employees?

Workplace activity: Aggressive driving quiz.

No Habla Español? New CDC Site Helps Eliminate Language Barrier

Because language should not be a barrier in reaching all of your employees with important traffic safety messages, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a Spanish version of its motor vehicle safety website.

Traffic safety information is available in Spanish on a number of topics, including:

  • Impaired driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Seat belts

This new resource offers free social media content, state data and information and addresses teen driver safety.

Mad Scramble Could Be Pedestrian Safety Game-Changer

You like scrambled eggs for breakfast. How about throwing a pedestrian scramble into your morning commute? Why?

The problem of distracted walking is a contributing factor in many incidents involving pedestrians. Learn what you can do as an employer to help keep your workers safe. Check out what others are doing, too.

In Washington, D.C., officials have turned to an old idea to see if they can make their streets more pedestrian friendly, according to Governing magazine. At one intersection, the signal stops all traffic during a period of time and allows pedestrians to cross in any direction, even diagonally.

The practice, first introduced in the U.S. more than 50 years ago, is referred to as a “pedestrian scramble.” A study to see if it could work elsewhere, say in Oklahoma City or Tulsa, is under way.

“We get lots of requests for pedestrian scrambles, (but) we haven’t had good enough performance information to know whether it’s something we should be more aggressively pursuing or not,” D.C. transportation department officer Sam Zimbabwe said in the report. “That will come from this.”

Eleven states had pedestrian fatality rates of 1.0 or higher per 100,000 population during the first half of 2016, according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Oklahoma ranked 14th with a rate of 0.89.

Distracted Driving: Big Kids Can Learn from These Teen Advocates


Thank goodness for the kids of today.

Teen advocates at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute have launched a new app to curb distracted driving. You can put the app to work at your organization in at least two ways:

  • Pitch the app as a take-home tool that will help employees protect their family members
  • Sign up teams of your employees to participate in an internal competition you can model after the Teens in the Driver Seat® Responsibility Has Its Rewards program.

It’s worth noting: Vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of teen injury and death across the nation, according to Russell Henk, founder of Teens in the Driver Seat® and manager of TTI’s Youth Transportation Safety Program.

In a three-state study of 1,200 teen drivers conducted by driver education course-provider Aceable, teens reported 72% of their peers drive distracted; 43% of those texted while driving.

TTI research found that on average texting drivers take their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds.

For a car traveling at 50 mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

The Teens in the Driver Seat® smartphone app works by putting your cell phone on “airplane mode” while you are driving, eliminating cell phone distraction. Download the app from the iTunes store or get the Android app on Google play.

Watch/Learn: Presenting the Teen Driver App.