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Driver Safety: Avoiding Distracted Driving

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Let’s do all we can to protect one another by focusing on driving when behind the wheel.

April 3, 2023

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), someone is killed in a motor vehicle accident every 15 minutes in the U.S. More than 700 people are injured each day—some of whom are innocent bystanders—as a result of distracted driving crashes.

What Is Distracted Driving?

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. A distraction is defined as anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or attention away from driving.

One of the deadliest distractions is texting. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the five seconds it takes to read or send a text at 55 miles per hour is like driving the length of an entire football field with closed eyes.

Currently, 48 states ban texting while driving. The penalties for breaking the law range from fines to license suspensions to jail time.

Use these 10 tips to reduce distracting driving and protect drivers and bystanders alike:

  • Eat and finish grooming before you begin driving, or do it while safely parked.
  • Stow belongings securely before starting the vehicle so they don’t move around and become distractions.
  • Plan your route and program your navigation system before you start driving. Ask a passenger to assist in finding the destination, if necessary.
  • Activate your phone’s “do not disturb” feature or place your phone out of sight (e.g., in the glove box, in the trunk) to avoid distractions.
  • Don’t multitask. Focus on driving.
  • If you need to make a call or text, pull safely off the road first or ask a passenger to text or call on your behalf.
  • If you are a passenger, don’t distract the driver. If the driver is distracted, say something.
  • Don’t call or text others when you know they are driving.
  • Model good driving habits for teens.
  • Pay attention to traffic, not your cell phone, if you are outside of a car and near traffic.

OSHA’s Stance on Distracted Driving

While texting is not specifically addressed as an OSHA standard, the general duty clause in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) covers distracted driving by stating that “employers must provide a workplace free of serious recognized hazards.” It is well-recognized that texting while driving dramatically increases the risk of a motor vehicle injury or fatality. This means that an employer could be in violation of the OSH Act if a company does the following:

  • Requires employees to text while driving
  • Organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity, even if it’s not a formal requirement
  • Provides any sort of financial or other incentives that encourage workers to text while driving

If OSHA receives a credible complaint that an employer enforces or encourages any of these activities,

it will investigate and, where necessary, issue citations and penalties to end such practices.

Supporting Workplace Safety

Since distracted driving falls under the general duty clause and not a specific standard, there are no direct guidelines for how employers must protect employees from the dangers of distracted driving. It is up to each employer to institute its own measures to keep employees safe.

The easiest way to do this is to develop a policy that outlines how employees are to use mobile devices while carrying out their duties. Specifically noting that texting while driving is not allowed will help protect employees and prevent the company from violating OSHA regulations.

Free Materials to Promote Safer Driving

The NSC is offering free Distracted Driving Awareness Month materials that employers, families and their friends can use to spread the word about distracted driving and hopefully save lives. These materials are available to NSC members and non-members alike and include posters, fact sheets, infographics and more.

Parents and guardians of young drivers may also want to read 5 Ways to Help Your Teen Become a Safe Driver for more tips.

Distracted driving takes a devastating toll on human lives and also contributes to the ongoing rise in auto insurance rates. Let’s do all we can to protect one another by focusing on driving when we are behind the wheel.

The above information does not constitute advice. Always contact your insurance broker or trusted advisor for insurance-related questions.

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