Society’s reliance on portable electronic devices creates a number of challenges for business owners and risk managers when it comes to distracted driving. While a number of things can cause a driver to momentarily lose focus, cell phones remain the biggest culprit.
Distracted driving accidents killed more than 3,000 people and injured 416,000 in 2013 according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). Reaction time is as delayed for a driver talking or texting, as for a driver who is legally drunk.
Fleet Managers need a clearly written policy that is uniformly enforced and supported by senior management to reduce incidents of distracted driving by employee drivers.
A growing number of business today are taking a hard line against distracted driving, putting policies in place that prohibit employees from texting while driving and in some cases, banning cell-phone use in company vehicles altogether.
Various states have already taken action and made the use of mobile devices while driving against the law. Thirty-nine states already ban text-messaging while driving, with another 10 (and the District of Columbia) prohibiting all hand held cell phone use while driving.
The latest state-by state distracted driving laws can be seen here: http://www.distraction.gov/stats-research-laws/state-laws.html.
How to Implement and Enforce a Distracted Driver Policy
Here are 7 points for an organization to effectively enforce a distracted driving policy.
- Clearly define ‘distracted driving’ and consequences for violations.
Texting is not the only distracted driving issue. Using handheld tablets, newer in dash entertainment, computer systems and even eating can cause distracted driving. You need to clearly state what is allowed and what is not.
The policy should also clearly outline what the consequences are for non-compliance. Be precise on what the expectations are of the driver, and what actions would be taken if a violation occurs. Employees also need to sign off and acknowledge the policy.
- Senior Management Must “Buy In”
Fleet managers and Risk managers need senior management to support and adhere to the distracted driving policy, otherwise organization-wide compliance is unlikely. Drivers will not follow the rules if they see upper management ignoring the rules and not practicing what is put into place.
- Be Consistent with Policy Enforcement
The biggest mistake you can make is to allow for exceptions. The more exceptions you make, the more you “water down” the policy. Selective enforcement can also lead to increased legal implications.
- Reinforce the Policy on an Ongoing Basis
Keep drivers educated through regular training, workshops, and newsletters. A best practice is to restate and send out the policy to drivers on an annual basis, requesting review and signing acknowledgment.
- Monitor Compliance
If an employee operates a company vehicle and uses company-issued phones, require employees to sign a privacy waiver that allows GPS tracking of that phone. The fleet manager can cross reference GPS reports with the company phone records. This data can be reviewed to determine if possible use while driving has occurred. You should check with your company legal counsel about rules governing employee privacy before implementing this type of monitoring.
- Create a Safe Environment for Employees to Report Policy Violations
Employees need to feel comfortable reporting distracted driving issues that they are aware of. Employees should be encouraged to come forward to management and report employees that are being reckless.
- Perform Periodic Policy reviews
New technologies will require changes to the fleet policy. What we see today may be totally outdated in a little as 2-3 years. Be flexible so the policy can be adjusted accordingly to the changes in technology.
You can not completely eliminate the risk of litigation resulting from distracted driving. However, a sound policy and enforcement of that policy can help reduce related claims. At Invincia, we have helped numerous clients with the creation and management of their fleet program. Please contact us if you have questions or would like to further discuss your fleet management program.