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Distracted Driving

Distracted driving has become an increasingly large problem on Texas roadways in the last few years as cell phones have become more common in Texans’ day-to-day lives. In 1995, cell phone subscriptions covered only 11 percent of the U.S. population; in 2012, that number grew to 102.2 percent.

This has led to a substantial increase in cell phone use while driving. According to the National Safety Council, 28 percent of all crashes each year involve cell phone use, resulting in 1.6 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 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.
    • In 2012, cell phone use was a contributing factor in 3,283 Texas crashes.
    • In 2012, driver distraction was a contributing factor in 10,261 Texas crashes
    • In 2012, driver inattention was a contributing factor in 82,833 Texas crashes

Talking on a cell phone while driving makes you four times more 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 deivce, 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 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that employers in Texas spend $4.3 billion every year as a result of on and off the job traffic injuries. 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.

In 2012, motor vehicle crashes in Texas resulted in 3,399 fatalities and $26 billion in economic loss to society.

What Employers Can Do 

 Implement a Cell Phone Ban
Driver distractions cost the U.S. economy $3.58 billion each month (Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study). 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.
 

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

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.
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.
  • 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 

 Cognitive Distraction/Employer Cell Phone Policy Webinar

The most recent Our Driving Concern webinar, “Eliminating Driver Distractions: Employer Cell Phone Policies Cut Costs and Save Lives,” can now be viewed in our online webinar archive. The presentation, by Deb Trombley, Senior Program Manager of Transportation Initiatives for the National Safety Council, shares the research behind the dangers of cognitive distraction, as well as the safety and liability risks to employers and the resources available to educate employees and implement cell phone policies.

No Cell Phones in School Zones 

Texans need to be aware of the cell phone law in effect. Drivers are prohibited from using handheld cell phones in school crossing zones. School bus operators also are prohibited from using cell phones while driving if children are present. In Texas, fines can double in school zones.

 
 
   
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