Safe driving is important in every season. Every day, employers discover new ways to lower their safety risks. However, some hazards top the charts year after year. Vehicle crashes are the number one way to die on the job. In 2020, Missouri saw fewer cars are the road than ever. But it still saw a notable increase in accidents.
Employers should work with employees on all aspects of safety. But it only takes a short moment for a vehicle accident to happen. A new year is a new opportunity to bring a safety culture to your workplace. How can employers help workers stay safe behind the wheel?
On this episode of the WorkSAFE Podcast, we sit down with Captain Kevin Kelley. He works for the Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP). Kelley joined MSHP in 1994 after graduating from their Law Enforcement Academy. His journey began as a trooper. There, he worked with the Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, where he now holds the rank of captain.
First, Kelley will share what drove him towards road safety. Then, he’ll talk about situations where safe habits could have changed bad outcomes. Finally, we’ll offer some tips on how employers can plan a safer future on the road for their employees.
Listen to this episode on the WorkSAFE Podcast, or read the show notes below.
A simple start: Changing lives every day with the Highway Patrol
Kelley didn’t always want to be a highway patrol officer. In fact, he didn’t know he wanted to be in law enforcement at all. As a high school student, he began exploring his options. What did the future hold?
One day, his life took a clear and different direction. A local highway patrol officer offered Kelley a ride-along. The two completed a shift together. By the end of the night, his mind was made up.
Kelley is the first person in his family to be a law enforcement officer. For him, every day is new and different. He rides around in a mobile office – his patrol car – every day. Above all, each day provides him with an important opportunity.
Most people aren’t happy during a run-in with the highway patrol. Usually, it means a warning or ticket. Sometimes it even ends in arrest. But often, these unhappy moments are the ones that change someone’s life. Kelley hears from people on occasion. They write letters or stop by to see him. A ticket or arrest is a wake-up call for some. Most importantly, it keeps others on the road safe.
Unsafe driving: How speed can be the difference between life and death
One of the biggest issues the MSHP encounters is speed. Many people drive over the limit. Sometimes they aren’t paying attention. Other times, they know exactly how fast they are going. Lately, the MSHP has seen speeds over 100 miles per hour.
An important part of Kelley’s duties is enforcing local limits. “The faster you go, typically the worse the crash is,” he explained. The faster you go, the less reaction time you have. As a result, an animal in the road or stopped vehicle can have serious consequences. Kelley has seen people flip or roll their car due to high speed.
Safe driving: How can employers encourage safe speeds?
Speed limits protect drivers – and others on the road. “Speed limits are set for a reason,” Kelley added. For example, they may help prevent crashes in high-traffic areas. They may also offer people more time to stop. Either way, it’s important for employees to obey posted speed limits.
Employers should educate their teams about driving at safe speeds. Encourage them to plan ahead. Allow plenty of time to arrive at a meeting or appointment. If employees have enough time to get to their destination, then they have less reason to speed. Discourage distracted driving. It’s easy to lose track of your speed while distracted.
Most importantly, teach employees to watch for road work. Slower speed limits and orange cones often mark work zones. To protect roadside workers, they need to watch for and follow posted warnings and reduced speed limits.
Seat belt safety: Your best bet is to buckle up
Opting not to wear a seat belt is a gamble. It’s a bet that Kelley has seen many drivers lose. For him, a seat belt is essential to being safe while driving. However, many drivers opt not to wear one.
One-vehicle crashes are common. But they can be deadly when the driver isn’t buckled in, Kelley has seen drivers ejected from the car. The vehicles often end up with minimal damage. But ejected drivers aren’t as fortunate. Kelley doesn’t consider seat belts to be a 100% safety guarantee. However, he refers to them as the best “insurance policy” for driver safety.
Safe driving: How can employers make sure employees buckle up?
A few decades ago, it was more common for drivers not to wear seat belts. These days, more drivers – and passengers – know the importance of buckling up. Seat belts are free. They are also installed in nearly all of today’s cars.
Teach employees about the importance of using a seat belt while on the job. Then put a seat belt policy in place. If employees sign a safety policy, then they are held accountable for using a seat belt every time they get behind the wheel.
Unsafe behavior: Keeping an eye out for commercial vehicles
In every state, passenger cars share the road with commercial vehicles. Often, people consider truck drivers to be at fault for accidents. But in Missouri, most crashes are caused by passenger cars.
Tractor trailers need more time to stop their vehicles. They also have more blind spots and less visibility in their mirrors. Some drivers pull two trailers at a time. Kelley finds that these drivers are very professional and more experienced. Their companies often require them to go through additional training. He recommends that passenger car drivers exercise more caution, no matter how large or long the trailer.
Safe driving: How can employers encourage defensive driving?
In Missouri, fatality crashes happen 800-900 times a year. Moreover, each one means a life changed. Fleet safety is vital for employers with drivers on the road every day. Implement a defensive driving policy. Hold frequent safety meetings to discuss road safety, including in winter weather, and how to react to common vehicle hazards.
Kelley has seen one too many drivers make unsafe decisions. Further, sometimes a cost is paid by other drivers on the road. To create safer roads for everyone and prevent crashes, employees must develop safe habits and avoid risky behaviors.