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Drive Safely Work Week (October 3-7): Preventing Motor Vehicle Accidents

Granite Law Group

Every October, the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) hosts the Drive Safely Work Week™. The objective of NETS is to improve employee driving safety and encourage awareness and a culture of safe driving.

Motor vehicle crashes cost employers billions of dollars annually in lost productivity. For those employers who employ drivers such as trucking companies, transport companies or delivery companies, as well as those employers whose employees are often on the road as part of their job such a regional store managers, auto parts salespeople, business to business salespeople, and so forth, the loss can be even greater including medical expenses, workers’ compensation, legal expenses, and property damage to company vehicles.

Regardless of the company size or type of business, employees are the most valuable asset of any enterprise.

For this reason, many employers have instituted training and awareness campaigns relating to safe driving and this is partly how NETS came about. The NETS Recommended Road Safety Practices states “Bad driving behavior easily becomes habitual; habitual behavior is difficult to change. Hence, it is important to focus on preventing undesirable behavior by organizing regular refresher behind the wheel training.” Some employers have installed in-vehicle monitoring systems which record the driving behaviors and speeds of the employee driver. I’m sure we’ve all seen a company vehicle with a bumper sticker that says the speed of this vehicle is being tracked. I’m also sure many of us have sped up to go around said company vehicle. We should look in the mirror and become aware of our own bad driving behaviors.

The most common excuse for bad driving behaviors ironically is “I have to get to work.” How many people have tried to run a red light (it’s still yellow right?), go around a school bus (the kid hasn’t started to approach the bus yet), speed ( there aren’t any speed traps in this area, right?), rush through a train crossing ( I can make it before the bar comes down), all for the sole purpose of getting to work on time. None of these behaviors make for safer roads. In fact all of these behaviors increase the likelihood of an accident, some fatal. One should always plan ahead and leave extra time for these kinds of unexpected delays. Amazingly, if we all did this, we would have less delays on our roads caused from motor vehicle crashes!

While the above examples are all drivers responding (poorly) to external stimuli on the road, many other unsafe driving practices come from the driver themselves. Distracted driving is an increased hazard on our roads. Many drivers use their car as a kind of “extended office” and try to conduct business whether it be talking on a cell phone, texting while driving or at red lights, reading emails on their smart phone, or even plugging an address into a GPS while the vehicle is in motion.

Another driver related issue that NETS wanted to highlight in their Drive Safely Work Week™ campaign is drowsy driving. Often employees do not get enough sleep. There can be a variety of reasons why one might be driving drowsy. Shift work, a new baby in the house, a new dog in the house, nightmares, medications, sleep apnea and insomnia are just some of the reasons that sleep might be disturbed. Many people think they can offset this with a giant cup of coffee but even caffeinated driving is not as safe as driving after a good night’s sleep. This issue is so important to NETS that they dedicated both Day 2 and Day 3 of their campaign on the importance of sleep.

It has become a large issue in the trucking industry about drowsy truck drivers and Federal regulations have been put in place to limit the number of hours a commercial driver can be on the road. However, for other vehicles and light trucks, no such regulation exists and it would depend on the company policy. All employers who employ drivers of any kind should institute a Driver Fatigue Management Program.

Such a program should also include those employees who travel by plane for work. Consider arriving at the airport after a long international flight and then needing to drive an hour + to get back home. Has anyone considered how tired that employee might be after the flight? Employers should take that into consideration and make transportation accommodations. Same could be said for employees who work extended shifts or back to back shifts.

Many employers might feel like this is just another cost he or she would need to incur but it is one of those “penny wise, pound foolish” scenarios. If said employee got into a crash coming back from the airport or following a series of back to back shifts, the employer would lose productivity, the medical expenses would impact the health insurance plan for the company and/or the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance, and worst off, if the crash was fatal, the employer would be out of an employee – the most valuable asset to a company! Such a loss would adversely affect the remaining employees and the morale at the work place and further bring down productivity. Clearly, it is worth the investment rather than take such a risk.

Whether you are driving to or from work or for personal reasons, it is your responsibility to be safe on the roads. Getting to your destination on time is important but is not worth the risk of injury or death of yourself or another person using the roadway. Safe travels!

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