This year, October is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Together we can work to make our roads and our people safer. Use this opportunity to focus on the dangers of distracted driving and create a distracted driving program for your organization. Keep yourself and others around you safe and #justdrive. We can stop distracted driving in its tracks.
Understanding Distracted Driving
More than 700 injury crashes involve distracted driving on a typical day in the U.S. While the percentage of drivers using handheld devices has decreased in recent years, many experts feel the use of distracting devices is significantly undercounted. Fact is, drivers frequently lose focus of the road. Their eyes drift and their minds wander as they connect on cellphones or other technologies built into vehicle dashboards. Studies indicate drivers can be distracted long after programming a GPS device or sending a text via a voice command system. Long enough to miss a stop sign or pedestrian? You bet. At 25 mph, you can travel the length of more than one football field in 10 seconds. What else could you miss during that time?
Now let’s talk about inattention blindness, defined as the failure to notice a visible hazard because your attention is focused elsewhere. This phenomenon occurs regularly when drivers are cognitively distracted. Example: Let’s say a driver is using voice commands to order takeout food. The driver’s brain becomes lost on that order (thin- or thick-crust pizza?). Instead of focusing on what’s ahead, the driver can miss up to half of what is in their driving environment, including slow or stopped vehicles up ahead. This behavior can have deadly consequences. In America, eight people die every day in distracted driving crashes.2 Research shows just listening to a cellphone conversation decreases brain activity associated with driving by more than one-third, leading to safety performance issues, such as the inability to react quickly in congested driving zones.3 Think of it as driving blindfolded. Who drives like that? Of course, using electronics is not the only way drivers can be distracted. Other distractions include eating or drinking, applying makeup or shaving, reading a newspaper or book, watching a video, or programming a GPS. All of these examples fit under one of the following distraction categories: visual, manual (taking a hand off the wheel) or cognitive (taking your mind off driving). All can raise safety risks, not only for drivers but also for those sharing the road around them. Hands-free devices may be marginally safer than handheld ones, but the safest choice of all is not using your cellphone or other technology while you are driving.
Establish a distracted driving policy that states employees shall:
• Not use handheld or hands-free mobile electronic devices or voice features in vehicles while operating a motor vehicle.
• Turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature on smartphones and other mobile devices. If the feature is not available, turn off or silence mobile devices to prevent distraction.
• Pull over to a safe place out of traffic lanes and put the vehicle in “Park” if a call or text must be made.
• Inform clients, associates and business partners of this company policy to explain why calls, texts or emails may not be returned immediately.
• Program any global positioning system (GPS), music device, or dashboard/voice infotainment system prior to departing. If adjustments are needed while driving, pull over to a safe place out of traffic lanes and put the vehicle in “Park” to make the appropriate adjustment.
The human brain cannot handle two thinking tasks at the same time, such as driving and talking on the phone. Your brain toggles quickly between these two tasks. When driving, this can slow reaction time and cause crashes. Your life is much more valuable than any phone call, text or playlist. Let’s get on board with traffic safety.
DISCLAIMER: Any information and recommendations contained in this communication have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, Lon Brown Insurance, Fearrin Insurance, Key Henson Jackson Insurance and Auto-Owners Insurance Group accepts no legal responsibility for the accuracy, sufficiency, or completeness of such information. Additional safety and health procedures may be required to comply with local, state, or federal law. Content in this document is not legal advice, nor does it amend the terms, conditions, or coverages of any insurance policy issued by herein above listed insurance agencies and/or companies. Materials provided by Brown Insurance Group for use as an educational tool.