Distracted driving is a serious, often tragic, safety issue, yet 36% of Americans still admit to engaging in distracting activities on their mobile phone while driving. This dangerous behavior persists across both personal and professional lives, especially as our reliance on mobile technology continues to grow in and out of the workplace. The digitization of work and the need to be “always connected” has rapidly changed the way work gets done, pushing more tasks to the field and more workflows to the mobile device. That combination of factors makes it more important than ever for employers to take a proactive approach to reduce distracted driving risks across their workforce.
Distractions on the road have serious consequences that not only affect your business, but the well-being of other drivers on the road. The kicker – these types of accidents are highly preventable.
Distracted driving is any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the road. Mobile phone use is the most common culprit and it often results in employer liability. Human cost aside, it’s been reported that distracted driving accidents cost a business a little over $100,000 per accident. We are not just talking about fender benders at traffic lights.
Juries are holding employers liable, and awarding billions of dollars to survivors, when employees cause serious accidents because of distracted driving. The general reasoning is that the employers did not do enough to curb what is known to be a dangerous, yet widespread, practice.
Reducing Employee Distracted Driving
The first step for any business is to establish a clear distracted driving policy. That includes:
- Creating a formal, written policy stating the company’s position on mobile device use while driving.
- Communicating that policy to all employees on a regular basis.
- Following up with management interaction and monitoring.
An established policy is essential, but not sufficient. It will bring awareness and cause some employees to just leave their phones alone but, realistically, it is not going to break bad habits that already exist. A good policy doesn’t always offer ironclad protection against distracted driving risks and liability, even for the employer. Imagine if a manager tries to contact an employee via text or call, but doesn’t realize they’re on the road. The employee might feel obligated to answer their call or return their text even though they’re still on the road. The manager thereby unwittingly introduced a distracted driving risk despite their best intentions to remain compliant with their policy.
In that case, the company needs a safeguard that goes beyond simple policy compliance.
Nuclear Verdicts: Out of Control or Controlling the Outcome?
Add a Technological Component
Three Technologies To Reduce Distracted Driving Risks:
Many companies have taken a tech approach to deal with distracted driving.
One method is in-vehicle cameras that record everything a driver does; employers can then, theoretically, review what is recorded to ensure policies are followed and to coach employees on safe driving practices. While some employees will certainly see this as an invasion of privacy, the main drawback is that it’s not pragmatic to review a significant percentage of recorded driving time, even for a small fleet of vehicles. Additionally, this method doesn’t actively prevent any behavior – it only documents and allows for correction after the fact.
In a worst-case scenario, a plaintiff’s attorney subpoenas the camera recording for an employee and establishes he was looking at his cell phone before the accident, he often did so while driving in the past, and no one ever reviewed the recordings showing his behavior. The employer company’s recordings have proven its own liability.
Another method is to use telematics to combat distracted driving. In addition to providing vehicle location tracking, telematics solutions also provide data and insights into driving habits in order to identify unsafe behaviors, like harsh braking incidents. However, similar to in-vehicle cameras, this is not a preventative measure – it only records incidents after the fact. And there is no way to determine if the panic braking was due to the employee’s behavior or other external factors. Still, business leaders can use this data to help coach their employees on safe driving habits.
A more effective and proactive solution is Contextual Mobility Management (CMM). The only real way to curb distracted driving caused by mobile devices is to reduce the risks before the driver even starts the engine. TRUCE Software’s CMM uses situational triggers (like IoT sensor and movement data) to automatically enforce your mobile device policy. CMM senses movement, whether it’s the vibration of an engine idling or the speed of a vehicle on the road, and then enforces your company policy in real-time to manage what the employee will be able to access on their mobile device. As soon as the situation changes and the vehicle stops moving, the mobile device reverts to normal operation, giving the employee full access to all their apps and features.
CMM is not about controlling end-user devices, but rather ensuring employees remain safe and focused while driving. It enhances the capabilities of other distracted driving solutions by adding a layer of contextual awareness. But, most importantly, it is tamper-proof, so individuals are unable to disable it without IT professional support. Companies get all of the benefits and capabilities of their mobile investment without any of the downside risks, while fleet managers are assured that their drivers are being safe without the distraction of their mobile devices.
Avoid Accidents, and Liability, From Distracted Employees
You can use CMM to address the distracted driving issue without impacting operational effectiveness. Learn more in our e-book: “Kick Distracted Driving to the Curb and Promote a Safer and More Productive Workforce.”