Recent headlines across the Midwest tell stories of teen fatalities caused by distracted driving. In November 2011, a high school junior in northeast Iowa was killed when her car crashed into a school bus. She was texting while driving. In August 2010, a 19-year-old pick-up driver sent and received 11 text messages within the final 11 minutes before he crashed into a semi-trailer and was killed in east central Missouri. A resulting pile-up involved two school buses. One student was killed and 38 were injured. The stories are numerous and tragic.
Everyone knows a teen driver who needs to better understand the dangers of using a cell phone while driving, but distracted driving isn’t just a teen issue. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nearly 6,000 people die each year, and a half million more are injured in distracted driving traffic crashes. Cell phones are often the deadly cause. In 2009, cell phone use was reported in at least 18 percent of distraction-related crashes resulting in fatalities – that’s 995 lives lost because someone was on a cell phone.
What are the dangers? Get the facts
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that talking on a cell phone can slow a driver’s reaction time, similar to that of a driver who is legally drunk.
“A common misconception is that it’s safe to talk on a hands-free device in a vehicle. That’s not the case,” said Larry Gallagher, director of Corporate Loss Control at Grinnell Mutual. “Research from a Carnegie Mellon study shows that using a cell phone while driving reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. Holding a cell phone isn’t the issue. Your brain is focused on the conversation, not on the road.”
OSHA also reports that texting takes a driver’s eyes off the road 400 percent more than when the driver is not texting. At 55 mph, writing a text message is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blind-folded, according the NHTSA.
Businessowners can help stop distracted driving
Many companies, including Grinnell Mutual, have enacted policies prohibiting employees from using cell phones, including hands-free devices, while driving on company business.
“We’re seeing more employers enacting policies to ban the use of electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. Their rationale is two-fold. First and foremost, like Grinnell Mutual, employers are concerned about the safety of their employees. In addition, they’re attempting to limit their financial exposure in the event of litigation if an accident occurred due to their employee’s use of an electronic device,” explains Claims Director Mark Johnson, a member of Grinnell Mutual’s Safety Committee along with Gallagher.
Members of the farm mutual industry have protected their communities for decades. Prohibiting the use of cell phones among employee drivers is another way the farm mutual industry can keep communities and roadways safe. To view a policy that your business could use or adapt, visit OSHA’s distracted driving web page (www.osha.gov/distracted-driving/index.html).
“Employees object to a ban on phone use while driving on company business because they say it hinders their productivity. That perception shows that they are focused on a particular task while on the phone and that task isn’t driving,” said Johnson.
To learn more and hear from people who’ve been affected by distracted driving, go to http://www.distraction.gov/.
Source: Grinnell Mutual