The National Safety Council (NSC) is promoting awareness of the consequences of distracted driving this month with slogans such as “Hands-Free Is Not Risk-Free” and “On the Road, Off the Phone.”
April was formally introduced to the United States as Distracted Driving Awareness Month back in 2010. There have been initiatives across Canada as well, including an RCMP campaign launched in British Columbia this past February. Yet wherever you are and whatever month you choose to review the statistics, they aren’t good. So what can we do, as individuals and employers, to reduce distracted driving?
Understand the Risk
At the time of writing the National Safety Council estimates that in this year alone 325,389 crashes in the United States have involved drivers using cell phones and texting. To put it another way, one crash approximately every 24 seconds.
Texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. In British Columbia nearly one in three deaths are linked to distracted driving.
As the National Safety Council reminds us, distractions can come in many forms: even if your hands are on the wheel and your eyes are on the road, your brain is still distracted by a hands-free cell phone.
Change Public Opinion
Janet Froetscher, president and CEO of the National Safety Council, is one of the more prominent supporters of Distracted Driving Awareness month. However, creating awareness is just the first step. “While many understand the dangers, they still use their cell phones when they drive,” she points out.
Many safety advocates argue that drinking and driving was once socially acceptable as well, and they are hoping to eventually see the same shift in public opinion for using cell phones while driving.
“It’s time to start changing the social acceptance of cell phone use while driving,” said Froetscher.
Create A Safety Policy
Employers who want to protect their employees’ safety and encourage them to remain distraction-free while on the job should consider creating a cell phone policy.
Even workers who aren’t driving can benefit from this policy – a few years ago a construction worker in New Brunswick was so distracted on his cell phone that he stepped right in front of a truck and was seriously injured. Similar to jewelry (often banned in industrial workplaces), cell phones can get in the way or interfere with the proper use of personal protective equipment. Think of a worker removing his safety gloves so he can send a text. These are just a few more examples of how cell phone use has the potential to result in a workplace safety incident.
Interested employers can download the free NSC cell phone policy kit here.
Making a formal commitment to an initiative strengthens a person’s resolve to stick to their word. You can also encourage employees to take the NSC pledge to drive cell free at nsc.org/pledge.
Drive safely everyone!