When your employees aren’t in the office, how often are you concerned with their texting or emailing behaviors? If you employ traveling salespeople, commercial drivers, delivery people, or similar, you should be thinking about it often. According to the National Safety Council, the leading cause of workplace death is car crashes. Of the total amount of crashes per year, a quarter of them involve cell phones. In Massachusetts alone, crash fatalities increased at an alarming rate in 2016. Traffic deaths jumped 12.8 percent (from 345-389), more than double the national rate (5.6 percent).
What can you do as a business to prevent distracted driving? The Eastern Insurance Commercial Lines team is here to help! In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month several organizations, like the National Safety Council, are sharing important information and tips to prevent distracted driving. We have also put together a detailed guide to help you start the conversation with your employees about the dangers of distracted driving.
Lead by example, and set the proper tone
If your employees feel obligated to respond to an email or text message from a supervisor or fellow co-worker while they are operating a vehicle, you may be violating OSHA standards. 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, “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, and a number of state laws prohibit texting while driving. This means you could be in violation of the OSH Act if your company does the following:
- Requires employees to text while driving
- Organizes work so that texting is a practical necessity even if not a formal requirement
- Provides any sort of financial or other incentives that encourage workers to text while driving
In order to prevent these scenarios, avoid criticizing employees that could be on the road for delayed responses to texts or emails. If an urgent matter arises and a message needs to be communicated to a team member on the road, call instead of texting or emailing.
Commercial Driver Licenses (CDLs)
If your business requires employees to have a Commercial Driver License (CDL), for example, a trucking company, it is important to know that the laws are different for them. In fact, the Department of Transportation has banned the use of all handheld devices by interstate commercial drivers. Drivers may continue to use hands-free devices, but only if they do not cause a distraction. Here are some points to remember for your CDL drivers:
- It is illegal to dial calls, provided dialing requires the driver to push more than one button.
- In order to answer a call, the cell phone must be within a driver’s reach and easily accessible.
- Citizens’ Band (CB) radios, two-way radios and walkie-talkies are permitted.
- Drivers are allowed to use a hand-held mobile device during emergencies, as long as they are notifying law enforcement or other emergency services.
- Certain states do have outright bans on the use of cell phones. Be aware of the laws in your area of operations.
Create a detailed employee driving policy and review it with all employees
Some ideas to include:
- Do not send text messages or emails when operating a vehicle.
- Put your cell phone on silent mode or “Do Not Disturb,” or stow it in the glove box or turn it upside down while in the car, to avoid distracting notifications.
- If you must conduct a conversation, use a hands-free device and speed dial.
- Never touch up your makeup or hair while operating a vehicle.
- Adjust the radio or CD player before you leave.
- Avoid reading maps or printed directions or adjusting Google Maps while driving. Instead, pull into a parking lot to get your bearings and determine where you need to go next to reach your destination.
- Do not use a cell phone (even with a hands-free device) in bad weather, work zones or heavy traffic.
- Use your best judgment when road conditions are poor. Limit or avoid driving when rain or snow threatens your safety.
- Laptop computers should never be used at any time while driving.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Click here for a sample distracted driving policy that your employees can sign and return to you.
Consider hosting training on distracted driving prevention
Involve the Human Resources Department so they can host quarterly information and training sessions on distracted driving prevention. For a more hands-on training course, your employees could receive certified training from In Control Crash Prevention by taking their closed course crash prevention training courses. In Control is now offering Eastern Insurance clients a $30 discount when signing up for their course. Visit their website to learn more: http://www.driveincontrol.org/easterninsurance
Reduce your liability by protecting your business with proper insurance coverage
If you are a business owner who owns vehicles used for commercial purposes, you need to have Commercial Auto Insurance. Commercial Auto Insurance in Massachusetts is different than personal vehicle insurance. There are generally multiple vehicles on the policy and the liability from accidents or claims extends to your business. Our proposed coverage often addresses the following risks: comprehensive and collision, emergency roadside assistance, liability, medical payments, loss of earning, and uninsured motor vehicles. Commercial Auto coverage also protects owners against damage and liability claims. To learn more about Commercial Auto Insurance visit our website and request a free quote here.
If your business is in the transportation industry, including operators of truck, bus, and commercial auto fleets, consider getting Transportation Insurance. Coverages include automobile liability, physical damage, general liability, garage liability, cargo, inland marine, workers’ compensation, and umbrella liability. Learn more about Transportation Insurance on our website.
To learn more about the services we provide at Eastern Insurance, to contact a member of our team, or to request an insurance consultation online, please visit our website or feel free to call us at (800) 333-7234 (Option 3).