April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and in recognition of its importance, we at Morgan & Morgan want to do our part. Join us each week this month as we explore a different aspect of distracted driving and learn more about how everyday distractions have caused a public health crisis on U.S. roads.
There are more distractions challenging the road for the attention of drivers than ever before. Even avoiding distractions like our cell phones or misbehaving children in the backseat can be difficult during just a short car ride. And yet, for those who drive for a living, contending with these distractions has become just another part of the job.
There are many professions in which driving is the singular task and still others for which it is a major component. Truck and bus drivers spend nearly all their working hours behind the wheel on the highway, while police officers, repairmen, and mail carriers spend at least part of their shift driving.
If you are on the road from nine-to-five during the day, you are likely sharing it with someone who is driving as part of their job. You may want to keep an eye out for such drivers because they run an increased risk of driving distracted — and not just because of their cell phones.
What is the Cost of Distracted Driving at Work?
No matter the job, any work that involves driving means an employee is getting in the car not solely focused on driving. There are just too many potential distractions on top of the stresses work already places on people.
A 2013 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study cited by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed drivers at work were more likely to be in a hurry to reach their destination, think about work, be tired, or use a cell phone while driving. With all these distractions it is no surprise that work-related car accidents consistently ranks among the leading killer of employees every year.
From 1992 to 2000, 12,000 employees were killed in work-related car accidents, according to the CDC, and in the years since things have only gotten worse.
From 2003 to 2012, 18,716 workers died in crash-related fatalities, leading cause of death among workers in the U.S. during that period, according to the CDC. In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there was a nine percent increase in roadway fatalities among workers from the previous year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This increase led to 1,264 fatalities or 26 percent of all workplace deaths that occurred in 2015. And of the nearly 1,300 employees who lost their lives in transportation related workplace fatalities that year, drivers of large trucks accounted for nearly half, with 629 drivers perishing.
Clearly, distracted driving in the workplace has been an issue for some time, and during this time the potential distractions have only grown. Now, these distractions have begun seriously affecting not just workers, but all drivers and their passengers. The result has been the development of a public health crisis on U.S. roadways that has proven tough to solve for policy makers.
Interestingly enough though, the solution to ending distracted driving in the workplace and in the general population could start with employers establishing more prudent policies for their workers while on the road.
Prevention Begins With Employers
In recent decades, the number of potential distractions has increased, but our ability to ignore these distractions has not increased proportionately. As a result, more drivers have given into these distractions and the car accident rate is increasing.
One man thinks this can be changed, beginning with workplace driving policies.
David Teater is a former CEO who has become a leading voice on distracted driving since his 12-year old son was killed by a distracted driver in 2004. Teater focuses his advocacy on distracted driving in the workplace because he believes it is the easiest way to bring about a larger change, according to a report by CNN.
Teater believes that if businesses have strict workplace driving policies that make the dangers of distracted driving known, employees may not only cut down on distracted driving at work but could carry that message into their personal lives and affect the driving habits of those around them.
"If the employees buy into it ... then they start talking about it with their friends and peers, they get their family members to follow similar policies, and they take the practices home with them," Teater told CNN.
Beyond the safety of their employees, companies also have a big financial incentive to reduce distracted driving among workers.
How Much is Distracted Driving Costing Businesses?
A non-fatal injury crash at work that involves distraction costs employers $72,442 per accident, based on statistics cited by the CDC. While there were 1,264 fatalities in work-related roadway accidents in 2015, there were nearly 75,000 non-fatal roadway incidents involving motor vehicles that same year, according to the BLS.
This means employees are paying out millions of dollars each year because their employees were driving distractedly.
To drive these annual costs down — and protect their employees — many companies have implemented a serious driver safety program that places a ban on cell phone use and mandates safe driving habits on the job.
It is important that employers take this policy seriously, though, because if employees think they can get away with driving distractedly on the job, it will likely be the employer that is liable in the event of an accident.
For example, in 2008 a commercial transportation company was forced to pay out $24.7 million after one of its drivers killed three people and injured 15 others. The driver struck 10 vehicles that had stopped because of traffic while he was checking his cell phone for text messages, according to the National Safety Council.
More recently, a tech company in Florida was put on the hook for $21.6 million in 2010 after an employee was responsible for the death of another driver. Reportedly, the employee was speaking on the phone and struck another vehicle. The impact pushed the vehicle over the highway median and into oncoming traffic.
There are many other stories that resulted in multi-million dollar settlements and still more in which the financial reward is unknown. Based on the financial incentive and the desire to protect the lives of their employees, businesses should implement a strictly enforced driving policy at work because it may not only save the lives of their employees but start a safe driving trend that sweeps the nation.
What if I’m in an Accident Caused by a Distracted Driver?
While it may take time to end distracted driving for good, there are people available to help you, if you are ever struck by a distracted driver or any other negligent driver for that matter.
At Morgan & Morgan, we have decades of experience handling car accident cases. Best of all, when you hire a Morgan & Morgan car accident attorney you won’t pay unless we secure a favorable outcome on your behalf. To find out more about how we may be able to help you after a car accident, contact us today by filling out a free case evaluation.