MOTOR VEHICLE SAFETY AT WORK
Distracted Driving at Work
Distracted driving occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel, and mind off your primary task: driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of being involved in a motor vehicle crash.1 Workers in many industries and occupations spend all or part of their workdays on the road. One study showed that compared with other drivers, those who were at work were more likely to be in a hurry to reach their destination, think about work, be tired, or use a cell phone.2
Most U.S. states ban texting while driving, and a growing number also ban the use of hand-held devices. Get information on state lawsexternal icon.
Drivers of commercial motor vehicles (e.g., large trucks and buses) are not allowed to send or read texts while driving, or use a hand-held device while driving. Find information on commercial motor vehicle lawsexternal icon.
- Reading a text message
- Looking up directions
- “Rubbernecking” (i.e., craning one’s neck to get a better view) at a crash site
- Reaching for things inside the vehicle
- Using a hand-held device
- Adjusting the radio
- Eating or drinking
- Applying makeup
- Talking on the phone
- Arguing with a passenger
- Thinking about your next appointment
Talking and texting on a phone are driving distractions. Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distractions. Hands-free phones are not necessarily safer than hand-held devices. Your brain has limited ability to perform two tasks at the same time. When driving becomes secondary, you pay less attention to possible dangers on the road. A worker who is driving a motor vehicle while negotiating a complex or contentious business deal over the phone at the same time is at greater risk of being in a crash. In this situation, neither task – driving a vehicle or doing business – gets the attention it deserves.
- In 2017:4
- 6% of all motor vehicle crashes in the United States involved a distracted driver
- 3,166 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver
- 599 non-occupants (e.g., pedestrians and cyclists) died in a crash that involved a distracted driver
- At any given time in 2017, an estimated 2.0% of all drivers on the road were visibly using a hand-held device – a 0.1% reduction from 2016.5
- Research suggests that distraction is present during 52% of normal driving. Common distractions are: interacting with an adult or teen passenger (15%), using a cell phone (6%), and using systems such as climate control and radio (4%).6
- On average, a non-fatal injury crash at work that involves distraction costs the employer $72,442.7
Employers: Use the following recommendations to prevent distracted driving.8, 9
- Ban texting and hand-held phone use while driving a company vehicle, and apply the same rules to use of a company-issued phone while driving a personal vehicle.
- Consider banning the use of hands-free phones.
- Require workers to pull over in a safe location if they must text, make a call, or look up directions.
- Prepare workers before implementing these policies by communicating:
- How distracted driving puts them at risk of a crash
- That driving requires their full attention while they are on the road
- What they need to do to comply with your company’s policies
- What action you will take if they do not follow these policies
- Consider having workers acknowledge that they have read and understand these policies.
- Provide workers with information to help them talk to their family about distracted driving.
Workers: Take the following actions to stay focused behind the wheel.9
- Do not text or use a hand-held phone while driving. Further, avoid using hands-free phones as much as possible – even if your employer allows them.
- Pull over in a safe location if you must text or make a call.
- Make necessary adjustments (e.g., adjust controls, program directions) to your car before your drive.
- Do not reach to pick up items from the floor, open the glove box, or try to catch falling objects in the vehicle.
- Avoid emotional conversations with passengers, or pull over in a safe location to continue the conversation. For normal conversation, passengers in the vehicle can often help lower crash risk for adult drivers.
- Focus on the driving environment — the vehicles around you, pedestrians, cyclists, and objects or events that may mean you need to act quickly to control or stop your vehicle.
- Safe Driving Kitexternal icon
Download the National Safety Council’s Safe Driving Kit for tips to help establish and implement a cell phone policy.
- Distraction.govexternal icon
Get safety campaign materials as part of a distracted driving toolkit from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety.
- Mobile phone use: a growing problem of driver distractionpdf iconexternal icon
Learn from the World Health Organization about current knowledge related to distractions caused by cell phone use while driving.
- Distracted Driving
Explore the CDC National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC) site for information and tools on distracted driving.
- Parents Are the Key to Safe Teen Drivers
Download materials for parents to promote safe teen driving practices, including preventing distracted driving.
1National Highway Traffic Safety Administration . Visual-manual NHTSA driver distraction guidelines for in-vehicle electronic devices: notice of federal guidelines. Federal Register 78(81):24818-24890.
2Salminen S, Lähdeniemi E . Risk factors in work-related traffic. Transportation Research Part F 5(1):77-86.
3National Safety Council . Understanding the distracted brain. Why driving while using hands-free is risky behavior.pdf iconexternal icon Itasca, IL: National Safety Council. White Paper.
4National Highway Traffic Safety Administration . Distracted driving in fatal crashes, 2017external icon. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
5National Highway Traffic Safety Administration . Driver electronic device use in 2017external icon. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
6Dingus TA, Guo F, Lee S, Antin JF, Perez M, Buchanan-King M, Hankey J . Driver crash risk factors and prevalence evaluation using naturalistic driving data. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113(10):2636-2641.
7Network of Employers for Traffic Safety . Cost of crashes – 2015. Vienna, VA: NETS.
8NIOSH . Preventing work-related motor vehicle crashes. By Pratt SG, Rodríguez-Acosta RL. Morgantown, WV: US Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2015-111.
9National Safety Council . Safe Driving Kitexternal icon [downloadable].
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