The Workplace Cost of Distracted Driving

Haley Bass

Reliance on phones has made our lives easier, but it also creates new risks. Distracted driving has been reported by the National Safety Council (NSC) as the third most common cause of road fatalities, following closely behind speeding and alcohol.

In 2016, nearly 4.6 million drivers and passengers were seriously injured due to distracted driving. While we mostly think of cell phones as the culprit behind distracted driving, it can include any activity that takes your eyes or mind from the task at hand. Other distractions include eating and drinking, trying to pick something up from the floor, or fiddling with controls.

For employers with workers who drive as part of their job duty, including CDL drivers, employees with company cars, those who regularly travel during work hours, or even employees who face longer commutes to work – your business could be impacted by distracted driving.

The consequences of distracted driving.

If your employees are involved in a motor vehicle accident while driving during work hours or for work purposes, your business may be liable to pay the bills. A single work-related vehicle accident can cost an employer more than $24,500 in property damage alone. An injury can cost around $150,000, and a fatality as much a $3.6 million. As medical bills, legal expenses, lost productivity, workers’ compensation, and insurance premiums add up, employers spend $60 billion annually for motor vehicle crashes.

Even if a car accident occurs on an employee’s personal time, there can still be consequences in the workplace. Crash-related injuries can also cause employees to miss work, resulting in an overall decrease in their productivity and health, and significantly increasing insurance costs.

To combat these costs, and to keep employees safe, employers should consider implementing a driver safety program in their workplace.

Removing the distraction in your workplace.

A driver safety program can be simple to implement if the entire workforce is invested, including senior leadership. Help employees understand the risks they face when using the phone or eating while driving, and the consequences of their actions for themselves, their work, and their families.

A program should include several different elements: written policies and procedures, motor vehicle record checks, crash reporting and investigation, and a disciplinary action system. The same basic aspects you would use in a general safety program. Making the program official, rather than just offering general safe driving facts, is more likely to result in effective change.

A simple way for employers to get started is by enacting a corporate cell phone policy for all employees driving on-the-job. Ban all phone use while driving a company vehicle or on company time. If they do need to use the phone, require workers to pull over to a safe location to complete any necessary tasks. The same ban should be used for company-issued phones, even outside of work hours. You can applaud the work ethic of an employee who completes their work on-the-go, but that encouragement shouldn’t extend to a risky situation like distracted driving.

Many states have already taken steps to reduce the risk of distracted driving accidents, by implementing fines for drivers using phones while driving. While hands-free devices are still permitted, law enforcement understands the increasing risk between driving and cell phone use, and has begun to crack down on offenders to reduce the number of accidents.

Distracted driving continues to grow as a serious issue and major cause of preventable death. It’s too easily avoidable for us not to take personal responsibility in our own driving, and to take any action we can when the driving is on our watch. By understanding how distracted driving can impact our lives, and taking steps to reduce the risk of motor vehicle accidents, we can keep our employees and loved ones on the road, safely.