Distracted Driving Awareness Month: Cell Phone Use

Distracted driving consistently ranks as one of the traffic safety issues at the forefront of many drivers’ thinking, according to Triple-A studies.  Recent reports show distracted driving is a deadly behavior, contributing to 16% of all fatal crashes.  It leads to around 5,000 deaths every year in the United States.

Here is the definition of distracted driving from Dictionary.com:

“Driving a vehicle while engaging in an activity that has the potential to distract the driver from the task of driving.

Main Types of Distraction

The National Highway Transportation Board deals says there are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.

Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distractions.

And, the statistics in the United States are staggering…

  • In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,360 in 2011. An additional, 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012, a 9% increase from the 387,000 people injured in 2011.
  • In 2011, nearly one in five crashes (17%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.
  • In December 2012, more than 171 billion text messages were sent or received in the US.

What is Being Done?

Many states are enacting laws—such as banning texting while driving, or using graduated driver licensing systems for teen drivers—to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to keep it from occurring. However, the effectiveness of cell phone and texting laws on decreasing distracted driving-related crashes requires further study.

  • On September 30, 2009, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving on government business or with government equipment.
  • On September 17, 2010, the Federal Railroad Administration banned cell phone and electronic device use of employees on the job.
  • On October 27, 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted a ban that prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.
  • In 2011, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration banned all hand-held cell phone use by commercial drivers and drivers carrying hazardous materials.

Employers Can Bring About Change

​While no state has a law prohibiting all cell phone use while driving, employers are putting policies in place banning the use of handheld and hands-free devices to eliminate cell phone distracted driving and keep their employees safe.

To help make it easier to put a policy together in your workplace, the National Safety Council has created a helpful kit with materials needed to help build leadership support for a cell phone policy and tools to communicate to employees.  Download the kit here.

The video below explains why every workplace needs a cell phone policy.

As the video above shows, employers are being held liable for cell phone crashes.  Research from the National Safety Council shows employees who are allowed to use cell phones while driving causes them to be four times as likely to crash.  Employers are being held liable up to $25 million for employee crashes, even when employees are using hands-free devices.

Does your company have a cell phone policy?  How do they monitor it?  Does it work?  Answer these questions in this week’s HSE Press Forum conversation or comment below!