By Jay LeProwse and Scott Rogers of Leavitt Group
Every ten seconds someone is injured in an automobile accident, and every 12 minutes someone dies in a motor vehicle crash. Many of these incidents occur during the commute to and from work or during the workday, significantly impacting employers. You can greatly reduce the risk of automobile accidents faced by your employees and their families and protect your company’s bottom line by implementing a driver safety program for your employees and enforcing the importance of avoiding distracted driving and walking. This article includes tips that can be incorporated into any driver safety program, whether you simply employ commuters, have a mobile sales force, or manage a fleet of vehicles.
With cars getting smarter, distractions more abundant, and pedestrian fatalities at an almost 30-year high, it is becoming more important to pay attention and avoid distractions while driving and walking. Recent studies show that as many as 50 percent of pedestrians are distracted by technology while crossing the street. Here are a few other statistics to consider from the Governors Highway Safety Association:
- An estimated 5,984 pedestrian fatalities occurred in 2017 in the United States. This number is essentially unchanged from the 5,987 pedestrian fatalities that occurred in 2016.
- The number of pedestrian fatalities increased by 27 percent from 2007 to 2016, while at the same time, all other traffic deaths decreased by 14 percent.
- Pedestrians now account for a larger proportion of traffic fatalities than they have in the past 33 years.
- 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur at night.
- 72 percent of fatalities occur at non-intersection locations.
- 15 percent of pedestrians killed each year are hit by a drunk driver, and 34 percent of pedestrians killed are legally drunk themselves.
- Higher speeds increase both the likelihood of a pedestrian being struck by a car and the severity of injury.
Tips for Drivers
- Put the phone down. Pull over to the side of the road if you have a distraction that cannot wait until you get to your destination.
- Look for pedestrians everywhere. Pedestrians may not be walking where they should be or may be hard to see, especially in poor lit conditions – including dusk, dawn, night, and poor weather.
- Always stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk.
- Never pass vehicles stopped at a crosswalk. They may be stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the street.
- Slow down and look for pedestrians. Be prepared to stop when turning or otherwise entering a crosswalk.
- Never drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
- Follow the speed limit; slow down around pedestrians.
- Stay focused and slow down where children may be present, such as school zones and neighborhoods.
Tips for Pedestrians
- Pay attention, put the phone down, and avoid distractions, especially when crossing the street.
- Walk on a sidewalk or path when one is available.
- If no sidewalk or path is available, walk on the shoulder, facing traffic. Stay alert; don’t be distracted by electronic devices, including phones, earbuds/headphones, and other devices that take your eyes and ears off the road.
- Be cautious night and day when sharing the road with vehicles. Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not see you). Make eye contact with drivers as they approach.
- Be predictable. Cross streets at crosswalks or intersections when possible. This is where drivers expect pedestrians.
- If a crosswalk or intersection is not available, locate a well-lit area, wait for a gap in traffic that allows you enough time to cross safely, and continue to watch for traffic as you cross.
- Be visible. Wear bright clothing during the day, and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.
- Teach children how to safely cross streets and to watch for moving vehicles in driveways when walking on the sidewalk.
Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from the road. Distracted driving significantly increases the likelihood of a motor vehicle crash.
There are three main types of distractions:
- Visual: taking your eyes off the road.
- Manual: taking your hands off the wheel.
- Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.
Anything that takes your attention away from driving can be a distraction. This can include sending a text message or email, talking on the phone, using a navigation system, and eating. Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distractions – visual, manual, and cognitive. Sending or reading a message takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds, which is long enough to cover the length of a football field while driving 55 mph.
Tips to Prevent Distractions While Driving
- Fully focus on driving. Do not let anything divert your attention, actively scan the road, use your mirrors, and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists.
- Follow the speed limit, and slow down around pedestrians.
- Secure children and pets before leaving. If they need your attention, pull off the road safely to care for them. Reaching into the backseat can cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Store loose gear, possessions, and other distractions that could roll around in the car so you do not feel tempted to reach for them on the floor or the seat.
- Adjust vehicle systems including GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls, and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time.
- Finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
- Snack smart. If possible, eat meals or snacks before or after your trip, not while driving. If eating on the road, avoid messy foods that can be difficult to manage.
- Put aside your electronic distractions. Do not use cell phones while driving – handheld or hands-free – except in absolute emergencies. To avoid temptation, turn off and stow devices before heading out.
- If you have passengers, enlist their help so you can focus safely on driving.
- If another activity demands your attention, instead of trying to attempt it while driving, pull off the road and stop your vehicle in a safe place.
As a general rule, if you cannot devote your full attention to driving because of some other activity, it’s a distraction. Take care of it before or after your trip, not while behind the wheel.