Dangerous Distractions

Everyone knows to stay attentive on the road on Halloween night. The streets are full of trick or treaters, goblins, aliens, ghosts, and other terrors. But it is important for drivers, especially those who drive as part of their job, to stay attentive all year round. Distracted driving is more of a hazard today than it ever has been. Advances in automobile safety technology and regulatory standards have helped, but these safeguards are not always able to keep pace with changes in society.

The explosion in the popularity of tablets, laptops, smart phones, portable video game players and music players has been equalled only by the proliferation of advanced vehicle stereo, navigation and status displays. These toys are very popular and often add to a caucophony of automobile cabin distractions. Those who drive for work are often faced with additional technological distractions such as chatter from shortwave radios, navigation devices, and onboard delivery and dispatch systems. Distracted driving is extremely dangerous. One of the first things that a new driver learns is that their eyes, hands and attention must all be focused on safe driving. Distracted driving activities are exceptionally impairing because they often draw not one, but in many cases all three of those senses. To read, acknowledge and respond to a text message, a driver must look away, think away, and take their hands off the steering wheel. This can reduce the ability to react to changes in road conditions, and the results can be deadly.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, mobile phone usage accounts for a high percentage of distracted driving related accidents. The Department of Transportation indicates that “five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded.”

This dangerous behavior has prompted many states and municipalities to outlaw performing certain tasks on the road. In Colorado, it is against the law for drivers younger than 18 or any driver who has held a license for less than 6 months to use a cellphone while driving. It is against the law for all drivers to text, email or tweet while driving, and that rule holds primary enforcement, which means you can be pulled over for it without the need for factors such as speeding or running a stop sign.

There are a few things individuals can do to stay safe and avoid distracted driving:

  • Be a role model for other drivers, especially new employees or younger drivers.
  • Keep 100% of your focus on the task of driving, other-wise you risk losing precious seconds of reaction time.
  • If you are in a car and the driver is exhibiting unsafe, distracted behavior, don’t hesitate to speak up. Your life is being endangered.
  • If you notice that you have received a text or phone call while driving, ignore it until you arrive at your destination or pull over safely to the side of the road.
  • If you find that you eat or perform personal grooming in the car in the morning, schedule a few extra minutes for yourself before driving.

What Can My District Do?

According to the National Safety Council, the average work-related motor vehicle injury claim costs $69,206, which is twice as much as other work-related injuries. An overwhelming number of industry professionals recommend enacting a Distracted Driving Policy.

If your district has staff members that drive in the course of their duties, even if they are only driving vehicles such as ATVs or golf carts, it is important to make sure you have the appropriate policies in place. District policy should first and foremost focus on eliminating mobile phone usage by employees while driving, especially on district business. Your policy should also include texting, talking, e-mailing, instant messaging, navigation, reading, gaming, grooming, eating, or other non-emergency activities.

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