While operating a vehicle, drivers are faced with many decisions. If that weren’t enough responsibility, they also must consider the decisions that other drivers are making while driving in the same vicinity. As a teenager learning to drive, I was always told that you must not only be in control of your own vehicle, but you must also be aware of other drivers and to operate the vehicle in a defensive manner.
This advice has always stuck with me, and now, 25 years later, that guidance is more important than ever. As someone who is frequently on the road, whether for work-related travel, my children’s sporting events or theatrical plays, I can attest to the importance of this advice. In my role as a loss control manager, it is not uncommon to see employees, vendors, or visitors in a shipyard or a marine cargo facility distracted while operating a vehicle. Whether on a personal or company vehicle, or even operating a forklift or golf cart, these types of distractions can and have led to injuries and fatalities in the maritime industry.
The volume of distracted driving-related injuries and deaths have increased the need for broader awareness. In fact, the National Safety Council has designated the month of April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month to encourage a united effort in recognizing the dangers of and eliminating preventable deaths caused by distracted driving.
Distracted driving is the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity such as talking or texting, eating and drinking, or simply playing with the stereo system in the vehicle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes three types of driving distractions:
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), has determined that texting while driving is the most dangerous type of distracted driving since texting can affect all three types of driving distractions simultaneously.
According to a report published by the NHTSA, distracted driving claimed 3,450 lives in 2016. In 2018, distracted driving caused an average of 9 deaths and 1,000 injuries per day. In addition, a 2017 study published by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that 87% of drivers view texting and driving as the most significant hazard on the road. Other interesting facts derived from the AAA study include:
According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), the following tips can help prevent someone from becoming distracted while operating a vehicle:
To address the risk of distracted driving on worksites, employers should also implement protocols to discourage or eliminate distracted driving. Elements of this protocol might include:
While operating a vehicle, there are always temptations to answer a text or email or to reprogram a GPS that continually reboots itself. As a vehicle operator, it is important to understand that driving and multi-tasking do not mix. Remember always to plan ahead, remove distractions before getting in the driver’s seat, and to remind others of the risks associated with driving while distracted. Free materials for Distracted Driving Awareness Month can be found on the NSC website.
For additional guidance on lowering risk and controlling costs, contact your AEU Loss Control manager or click here to have someone contact you. ALMA members can access our full safety resource library here (login required).