Multitasking behind the wheel is not just a habit of reckless teenagers, but a growing trend for all drivers in the U.S. The temptation to multitask and thus distract our focus from the road is all around us when we drive for business or personal reasons. Distracted driving ranges from cell phone use, texting, eating, inputting or looking at directions on a GPS and so much more. Each of these activities takes a driver’s concentration off of the road and places them and others at risk for a vehicular crash.
When distracted, even momentarily, it is difficult for a driver to operate a vehicle safely, reasonably and responsibly. The three types of distraction identified by traffic safety experts include:
Any one of these factors can adversely impair a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle safely. The use of cell phones (especially texting) while driving is particularly dangerous because it involves all three types of distractions wrapped into one activity.
To raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, the National Safety Council (NSC) observes April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. While all drivers are vulnerable to the lure of multitasking behind the wheel, distracted driving is preventable.
Ten percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2013 were reported as distraction-affected crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Each day in the United States, the NHTSA reports that nine people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver.
The statistics are sobering for anyone, but businesses have particular reason for concern. If an employee on the road is involved in an accident while distracted, the employer may be held liable for injuries or damages. This liability may even extend to employees in their personal vehicles if the driver is distracted by a company-issued cell phone or engaging in work-related calls or emails. Cell phone use is involved in one out of four car crashes, according to the NSC.
Banks can help prevent distracted driving by implementing a zero use-cell phone policy for all employees, setting expectations through clear communication and rules, establishing appropriate discipline and providing effective supervision.
Drivers need to hear from immediate and upper management that the safe operation of their vehicle is an important part of their job. It should be stressed by management that safe vehicle operation is preferred over quick arrival at their destination. Remind employees that nothing is so important that it can't wait for them to pull over or park.
Management should also share distracted driving statistics and research with employees. It is important for employees to understand why they should not be multitasking behind the wheel. Defining, communicating and promoting safe behavior is essential.
You might also consider instituting a driver training program that addresses the topic of distracted driving and tips for minimizing risk. The program could include a ride along evaluation with employees to see how they manage distractions.
The NSC and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommend a complete ban on driver cell phone use. Their checklist for the ban includes all company vehicles, employees, handheld/hands-free devices, company cell phone devices and any work-related communications.
While cell phone driving laws vary by state, your bank can take charge of your own employee cell phone use by creating a written, enforced, zero-tolerance policy for cell phone use while driving. If your bank does not have a total cell phone ban in effect, you should consider implementing one. Think about the following as you create the policy.
As drivers, we are all vulnerable to the lure of multitasking and thus the potential of being distracted. However, distracted driving is preventable. Implementing a zero-cell phone use policy for all employees, as well as setting clear expectations and rules, providing effective supervision and establishing appropriate discipline can help protect your bank, its employees and everyone else on the road.
Craig M. Collins is President at OneBeacon Financial Services. He has more than 20 years of experience in the financial institution industry. Collins can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.