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Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has become an increasingly large problem on our nation’s roadways in the last few years as cell phones have become more common in our day-to-day lives. In 1995, cell phone subscriptions covered only 11 percent of the U.S. population; in 2010, that number grew to 93 percent.

This has led to a substantial increase in cell phone use while driving. According to the National Safety Council, 23 percent of all crashes each year involve cell phone use, resulting in 1.3 million crashes nationally. Distractions, along with alcohol and speeding, are now leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes.

What's the Problem

Cell Phone Use While Driving
Cell phone use while driving is the No. 1 distraction behind the wheel. More than two-thirds of the respondents to a AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey reported talking on a cell phone while driving during the previous 30 days. Researchers observing more than 1,700 drivers found that three out of every four drivers using a cell phone committed a traffic violation.

At any given daylight moment, 9 percent of drivers are talking on phones (handheld and hands-free).

Talking on a cell phone while driving makes you four times as likely to crash, and texting while driving increases your chances of a crash by up to 8 to 23 times. While a growing number of drivers are turning to hands-free devices, studies show hands-free devices provide no safety benefit. It’s the conversation, not the device, that creates the danger.

Cognitive Distraction

Cell phone use while driving isn’t just a visual and manual distraction, but a cognitive distraction. In addition to taking their eyes and hands off the wheel, distracted drivers take their mind off the primary task of driving.

Drivers talking on cell phones miss half of the information in their driving environment.

Drivers using cell phones not only display slower reaction times and have difficulty staying in their lane, but also are less likely to see:

  • High and low relevant objects
  • Visual cues
  • Exits, red lights and stop signs

More information on cognitive distraction can be found in the National Safety Council’s white paper, “Understanding the Distracted Brain.” 

Employer Costs
A Harvard risk analysis study estimated the annual cost of crashes caused by cell phone use to be $43 billion. In recent years, numerous plaintiffs have filed and won multi-million dollar actions against employers for injuries arising from negligent driving of an employee who was distracted by the use of a cell phone. Multitasking while driving may seem like a time-saving solution, but it isn’t worth the risk.

What You Can Do

Implement a Corporate Cell Phone Ban
Driver distractions cost the U.S. economy more than $3.58 billion (Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study) each month. In an effort to protect employees and their finances, many employers are implementing corporate cell phone bans, which protect employees both on and off the job.

A corporate cell phone ban might ask employees to:

  • Turn off wireless phones or other devices before starting the car.
  • Inform clients, associates and business partners that calls will be returned when no longer driving.
  • Pull over to a safe location and put the vehicle in park if a call must be made.

99% of organizations that responded to an NSC survey with total cell phone bans saw no decrease in productivity.

Educate Your Staff on the Risks of Distracted Driving
Your staff will have many questions about a cell phone ban and the risks of distracted driving, so prepare yourself to answer them.

Promote Distraction-Free Driving

  • Announce Your Commitment to Employee Safety – Introduce your cell phone policy and emphasize how it will ensure a safe workplace. Distribute the policy and give employees time to read and react to it, then explain what the ramifications are if employees fail to adhere to the policy.
  • Create a 12-Month Safety Calendar – You should promote distraction-free driving all year, but build on momentum of safety events during logical times of the year, like April’s Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
  • Use Posters, Web Banners and Fact Sheets from NSC – The National Safety Council provides many resources to help promote the prevention of distracted driving. Our Cell Phone Policy Kit provides ready-to-use materials.

What's New

Distracted Driving Awareness Month
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month - a perfect opportunity for employers to implement cell phone policies for all employees. This year’s theme focuses on the cognitive distraction from cell phone conversations, whether handheld or hands-free. Take the pledge to drive cell free and download materials including posters, fact sheets, videos and a new infographic at

The Great Multitasking Myth
The National Safety Council has a new infographic, “The Great Multitasking Lie,” debunking the myths of cell phone distracted driving. Most people may know that texting while driving is a dangerous behavior, but many don’t fully grasp the idea that having cell phone conversations in the car also is risky. Share this graphic with your employers, family and friends to help spread the word that it is not safe to use your cell phone while driving.
Updated NSC Cell Phone Policy Kit
Employers across the country have realized the dangers of cell phone use while driving and are taking actions to make roadways safer by implementing cell phone policies. The National Safety Council recommends policies include both hands-free and handheld devices and cover all employees. Updated in April 2012, the Cell Phone Policy Kit includes everything an organization would need to implement or strengthen a cell phone ban. The kit includes resources for executives, materials and guides for the implementation team and educational materials for employees, and best of all, it is FREE. Download the kit and help make roadways safer.
Corporate Liability White Paper
The National Safety Council recently released the white paper, “Employer Liability and the Case for Comprehensive Cell Phone Policies,” which details the potential liability when employees are involved in crashes where cell phone use is a factor. This research includes examples of employers who have been held liable with awards reaching into the tens of millions of dollars, including cases involving employee-owned cell phones and cars and in situations where employees were driving during non-work hours or engaged in personal phone calls. The white paper is free to download.


















































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