Earlier this year, a Missouri Employers Mutual policyholder’s driver was making a delivery. During the drive, he decided to have a snack. In an instant, what seemed like harmless multitasking turned into something much more serious.
The driver choked on the snack, causing him to run the truck off the road. Unfortunately, he was not wearing a seat belt. From the crash, he suffered several fractures as well as internal injuries. He underwent multiple surgeries and may experience long-term effects from his injuries.
The estimated claim cost associated with this incident is nearly $900,000. In time, the claim will be factored into the policyholder’s e-mod and have an impact on their work comp premium.
Distracted driving: an ongoing problem spanning industries
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that nine people are killed every single day in the U.S. in crashes involving distracted driving.
When you think of distracted driving, you might think of the many drivers you see on the road texting or using their phone behind the wheel. It’s true, cell phone use while driving is a big problem today. But the truth is that almost anything can be a distraction in your vehicle.
Distractions come in three forms – visual, manual and cognitive. Cell phones get a lot of attention because they cause all three types:
- Looking at your phone takes your eyes off the road.
- Holding your phone means one hand is off the wheel.
- Thinking about your text message takes brain power away from driving.
However, a task as simple as eating a snack can cause a distraction. Even vehicles equipped with hands-free technology allow drivers to be cognitively distracted by their conversations.
Back to defensive driving basics
Vehicle crashes remain the most common cause of on-the-job fatalities. But safe driving isn’t complicated. The first step to preventing vehicle incidents in your workforce is talking to your employees about these five defensive driving basics:
- Always wear a seat belt. Make sure all employees have signed a written seat belt policy.
- Control your speed. Faster driving means higher risk of a crash.
- Avoid distracted driving. Consider implementing a cell phone while driving policy.
- Avoid impaired driving. Your drug and alcohol policy should cover this.
- Perform regular vehicle maintenance. Make sure employees know how to request maintenance and repairs.
Technology to the rescue
While technology can create new distractions, it can also help employers reduce the risk of distracted driving among employees. In-vehicle GPS technology known as telematics can help you identify and correct risky driving.
“There are certain behaviors, like a habit of sudden braking, that point to distracted driving,” said Brandon Jones, Director of MEM’s Safety and Risk Services Department. “One instance may not mean much, but if it’s happening frequently, that driver’s attention is likely not on the road.”
Telematics programs track trends and alert employers when employees are not meeting safe driving expectations. They can also encourage safer driving by gamifying stats and providing individual reports to employees with their “safe driving score.”
“The goal of this technology isn’t to punish employees or be Big Brother,” Jones clarified. “It’s to identify teaching opportunities and ultimately prevent crashes so more of your employees are going home safely at the end of the day.”
MEM policyholders may be eligible for discounted third-party services like StriveSafe, a telematics solution from Geoforce. To learn more about telematics or improving safe driving in your workplace, get in touch with our Safety and Risk Services experts.