How to Prevent Distracted Driving: For Employers and Employees
Despite traffic safety improvements and nationwide attempts at promoting safe driving, the proliferation of technology like mobile devices has motor vehicle deaths moving in the wrong direction. They are the No. 1 cause of work-related deaths in the United States and account for 24% of all fatal occupational injuries (CDC). Beyond concern for the safety of employees and communities – crashes are also expensive to employers, who absorb significant costs related to vehicle repair, workers comp, hospital bills, ongoing litigation, insurance premiums, and downtime.
Distracted driving has joined alcohol and speeding as leading factors in fatal and serious injury crashes, and the risks and costs associated with mobile device use while driving will continue to grow in the coming years.
Listen to Kelly Nantel, Interim VP, Roadway Practice at the National Safety Council, as she shares a best practices approach to successfully setting up a safe driving program that minimizes the risk of distracted driving. Learn how to help employees avoid distracting driving scenarios, focus on the road, and develop better driving habits.
Interim VP, Roadway Practice
National Safety Council
Currently, she serves as the vice president of roadway practice for the National Safety Council (NSC). She’s especially passionate about saving lives on the road and helping people get to their destination safely.
[00:01:28] Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to get together with us today. As Josh said, I’m Kelly Nantel, and I look forward to talking you through some distracted driving best practices this afternoon.
First, let me tell you about the National Safety Council. We’re a century old nonprofit organization with a mission of ensuring people are able to live their fullest lives. And our mantra is “from the workplace to any place.”
What is the Road to Zero Coalition?
[00:02:07] We follow the data, and we allow the data to inform our priorities and our focus, and focus our efforts where we think we can make the biggest impact. The roadway safety issue is one of those key areas where we know we can make a difference.
Four years ago, the National Safety Council, along with our partners from US DOT, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) federal highway and FMCSA created the road to zero coalition, which is a group of road safety experts and advocates who have committed to reaching zero deaths on our roads by the year 2050.
That coalition has since grown to more than 1,500 organizations, companies, academic institutions and others all committed to that mission. During its first year of existence, the coalition produced a roadmap called the road to zero: A vision for achieving zero deaths by 2050. At NSC we’ve really adopted the safety priorities identified in that report as our strategies for how we approach road safety.
Road to Zero Priorities
[00:03:18] The report calls for three action areas, 1) doubling down on proven countermeasures that we know work, 2) accelerating the development and adoption of safety-related advanced technology, and 3) prioritizing a safety culture by embracing the safe systems approach to road safety. These are the things we know we need to do in order to create a reality where it doesn’t cost a human life to get from point A to point B.
When we have safe roads, safe vehicles and safe drivers, everyone’s able to get to their destination safely. The first step that you see is doubling down on what works. These are the proven interventions we know to make a difference along with addressing speed, impaired driving and encouraging seatbelt use.
Facts about Distracted Driving Accidents
[00:04:11] We know that addressing distracted driving is key. Before we drill down into distraction more deeply, I want to give you a sense of the big picture. We know that motor vehicle deaths play a big role in workplace safety generally. The stats on this slide come from our injury facts website and bureau of labor statistics.
You can see that motor vehicle crashes are the #1 cause of workplace fatalities. They’re also in the top 5 when it comes to workplace injuries, which is why road safety is such an important issue for employers to address. According to NHTSA at any moment, one of every 10 drivers on the road is using their cell phone.
That percentage may be even higher because it’s difficult to observe hands-free cell phone use. Here’s the kicker: When there’s a crash, every single one of them costs companies money. The latest stats we have available show us that United States employers were impacted to the tune of 30 billion in 2018 alone.
In addition, in cases where it was determined that an employee was found to be using a cell phone at the time of the crash, those companies have been held liable. That goes for hands free use as well. We know that hands free is not a safe or recommended solution, and I’ll get into why in just a little bit.
“…Road safety is such an important issue for employers to address. According to NHTSA at any moment, one of every 10 drivers on the road is using their cell phone.“
Did COVID-19 Impact Distracted Driving Statistics?
[00:05:57] Some of you’re probably thinking “Kelly, many people are not even out on the road driving for work right now, due to the pandemic. Maybe this really isn’t such a problem that we have to deal with right now.” Unfortunately it’s just not the case. I’m going to run you through some slides, but what we’ve seen over the last four months is that the fatality rates have jumped significantly since the shelter in place orders were first implemented.
You can see with this chart here that people are driving less. You’ll see how after February, that blue line began to dip, and that line represents miles driven in 2020, as compared to miles driven in 2019.
We have fewer people on the road, and in fact, miles driven have decreased 17% year over year for the first five months of this year. So there is no question that that’s true: less miles driven. This chart here you can see that the overall number of fatalities in 2020, that blue line again, dipped as well.
Though it has not dipped as much as we would’ve expected to see, given the record reductions in the number of miles driven. But this is the chart that I want to bring your attention to. This chart shows us the fatality rate, and you can see here that same blue line is trending well above where we were last year.
Car Crashes “Have Become Deadlier”
[00:07:41] The death rate, when we compare May 2019 and May 2020, is 23.5% higher. Now, what is the death rate? It speaks to safety. It’s how safe the roads are, or they’re not. It’s a barometer for us to be able to determine, are the roads safer?
This tells us that crashes have become deadlier. If we look at the three charts side by side, and again, I know it’s an eye chart, but I think it’s important to see them together. You can see how overall deaths are still trending higher than expected for the amount of traffic that we’re seeing.
These trends are telling us that, although there are fewer people on the road, those who are out there are experiencing deadlier consequences. Causation is going to be murky for a long time. It’s going to be murky until the data are final and we really can look at the final data. What we do know is that open roads have created an open season for reckless driving.
We’ve seen lots and lots of reports about people driving more recklessly, speeding more, running traffic lights, and frankly distraction is at issue two.
Distracted Driving is Underreported
[00:09:02] Distraction behind the wheel comes in many forms. There’s no surprise to any of us that cell phone conversations and texting while driving have been found to be particularly risky.
In fact, four times more dangerous. It’s hard to get clear data on exactly how prevalent distracted driving is because it’s hard to capture handsfree use. More than that, not all police departments capture cell phone use in their crash reports.
However, we know that this problem is widespread and we know we haven’t yet done everything we can to address it. We also know exactly how distraction affects the brain and what makes it so dangerous when we’re behind the wheel.
Focus on the Road: Multitasking is a Myth
[00:09:48] The truth is the human brain cannot perform two tasks at the same time. This idea of multitasking, whether it’s behind the wheel or in any other situation, is a myth.
The science is really clear on this. Our brains can’t can’t juggle more than one task at a time, or can’t handle more than one task at a time. We are able to juggle tasks rapidly, but we can’t handle more than one at a time. That leads us to erroneously believe that we’re doing two tasks at the same time.
We aren’t. Our brain is able to switch attention between one task and another, but it can only perform one task at a time. When our minds are not dedicated to a specific task, we’re experiencing something that’s called cognitive distraction.
“The truth is the human brain cannot perform two tasks at the same time. This idea of multitasking, whether it’s behind the wheel or in any other situation, is a myth.”
Is Hands Free Driving Safe?
[00:10:45] Hands-free devices don’t eliminate cognitive distraction, and that’s a really important point. They only address the fact that you no longer need to manually manipulate or hold your phone.
If manual manipulation were the problem, we would’ve outlawed stick shifts years ago. The greater risk is the cognitive distraction. The risk is not having your brain fully engaged on the task of driving.
Studies have shown that longer reaction time is an outcome of the brain switching between tasks. It’s essentially switching focus. This clearly impacts driving performance and even small amounts of time that your brain spends switching can lead to significant risks from delayed reaction and breaking time.
You think about it: Even a fraction of a second delay can result in a car traveling several additional car lengths, even when you’re trying to bring it to a stop.
Distracted Drivers and Inattention Blindness
[00:11:50] Dr. David Strayer is an expert in cognitive distraction. His research team at the University of Utah tracked eye movement and other metrics to assess what happens to a driver’s mental workload when they attempt to do multiple things at once, like driving and talking on the phone or driving and using a voice to text technology.
What they found is something called inattentional blindness, which is the failure to notice an object or an event when attention is directed towards a primary task. These actions result in tunnel vision for us. You can notice on this slide how the breadth of attention narrows for someone using a hands free cell phone.
Other Myths: Pedestrian Safety and Stoplight Texting
[00:13:00] This holds true whether you’re walking or driving. Sadly, there’s been a lot of research that shows even pedestrians don’t effectively monitor their environment for safety while they’re talking on a cell phone or sending a text message.
There’s another common misconception. And that’s that using a cell phone at a stoplight is safe to do. It’s simply not. The AAA foundation for traffic safety found during some of their research that people remain distracted for up to 27 seconds after they put the phone down.
Now think about that. A lot can happen in 27 seconds. And let me just pause here for a moment to make that point.
That was 10 seconds. Not even half the time that AAA found that your brain will remain distracted. It takes just 10 seconds to travel the length of more than a football field at 25 miles an hour.
You can imagine what else can go wrong in 10 seconds or in 27 seconds. This idea that you can safely be distracted at a red light or at a stop sign is a fallacy and one that we have to get beyond.
“…People remain distracted for up to 27 seconds after they put the phone down. Now think about that. A lot can happen in 27 seconds.”
Workplace Safety Program Foundations
[00:14:27] Now that you have some context for why distraction should be addressed, you’re probably left asking yourself, how do I go about creating an effective program? First, you have to think about the vehicle and road safety as important parts of your overall workplace safety program. They’re not separate and apart.
They should be integrated in your total workplace safety program. That means having policies and procedures that ensure proper vehicle maintenance and operations if you have a fleet, that you have the right training and technology to evaluate driver behavior, their skills and their physical conditions that affect the driving.
All of this starts with creating a plan and establishing clear organizational policies related to safe driving. You have to commit to establishing strong enforceable policies and building effective employee training and engagement programs.
As employers, you’ve got to make safety a priority. Ask yourself, is there a difference between what you ask your employees to do behind the wheel and what they actually do while they’re driving for you? What about in their personal lives? Do you encourage safe driving both on and off the job?
Having clear, comprehensive and well communicated policies are really the cornerstones of an effective driver safety program.
“Having clear, comprehensive and well communicated policies are really the cornerstones of an effective driver safety program.”
In Safety, Leadership Sets the Example
[00:16:01] A critical element is making it clear that everyone at your organization is on board. It literally starts at the top. So having top level commitment and engagement is critical. We hear the line all the time that leaders must “walk the walk” or “walk the talk.”
I can’t understate how important that piece is, but I’ll give you an example. One of our member companies, Owens Corning, rolled out a cell phone policy for all of its employees using our cell phone policy kit. Their CEO decided to take it a step further.
90 days before the new policy was scheduled to roll out, he made a personal commitment: no cell phone use behind the wheel, hands free or handheld. He did that because he wanted to demonstrate that if he could embrace this new policy without affecting his productivity, everyone else at the company could too.
And in fact they did. It is so imperative that leaders walk the talk. When a top leader at your organization on a phone call, asks people if they’re driving and if they are tells them that they’ll reschedule the meeting or asks them if they’re in a safe place to participate on a call, that’s really how you move towards full compliance.
Cell Phone Policy Examples
[00:17:25] For those of you who may already have a cell phone policy in place, you want to make sure that it’s comprehensive. The best policies that we’ve seen cover all employees. They address both handheld and hands-free devices because we know hands free is not risk free.
They apply to all company vehicles and to all work related communications, even if the employee is using personal devices or their own vehicle. That’s an important piece that whether or not they’re using your equipment, you still want to hold them to that same level when they’re performing a business function on your behalf.
I think that this is the policy that NSC uses, but we actually take it even a step further than that. At the time of hire, we ask all of our employees who are joining the council to take a pledge to not use a cell phone behind the wheel, even during their personal travel or using their personal phone.
Because as you know what happens off the clock directly affects your company and your colleagues. When you have sound cell phone policies in place, that safety benefit can extend from the workplace to any place.
We take home our knowledge about safety whether it’s safe driving or otherwise. Having good sound policy can make a difference in keeping your employees safe off the clock as well.
“The best policies that we’ve seen cover all employees. They address both handheld and hands-free devices because we know hands free is not risk free.”
NSC Safe Driving Resources
[00:19:00] Our safe driving kit includes some handy distraction safety checklists that you can use. It also has model policies for your consideration. It has posters and communications materials and other items that are going to aid you in rolling out a sound safe driving program.
I’d really encourage you to visit NSC.org/safedrivingkit. In addition to our kit, there are a lot of other apps out there. There are technology tools that you can use that prohibit or limit the use of devices when a vehicle is moving, including products that block and coming calls and texts.
Those are really important. When it comes to distraction, our philosophy is that technology has gotten us into this mess, but use of the right technologies can really also help us get out of it.
Driving Behavior Data: What Should I Look at?
[00:19:53] I want to take a second and just talk a little bit about what you need to do if you experience a crash. It’s imperative that you collect all the data you can and that you go as deeply as you possibly can – as you would with any workplace safety incident investigation – to help determine the root cause of the crash.
We’ve found that the data can point out trends and identify trouble spots. This is a space where the power of technology can be really helpful. Using tools like telematics can help you monitor driving conditions and behaviors in real time, and they can help you identify immediate corrective actions that you can require employees to take.
What can the data tell you?
- Are your incidents happening in parking lots?
- Are pedestrians normally involved?
- Are you experiencing a high number of rear end collisions, and what does that say?
- What role is speed playing in your crashes?
- How about hard braking scenarios?
- Do you have a training gap? Is the data telling you something you may have to address through improved training of your employees?
Having the data really can point you in the right direction for making any of those improvements.
NSC’s “Our Driving Concern” Contest
[00:21:29] This is an example to underscore that point a little bit. The National Safety Council has a safe driving program aimed at helping Texas based employers keep their employees safe. It’s called “Our Driving Concern.” As part of that program, we recognize and award the state’s best companies for their safe driving practices.
This year, Texas Mutual Insurance was an exemplary award recipient. In addition to implementing a comprehensive driver safety program, they began to use in-vehicle monitoring systems for their fleets. As a result, they saw a 61% drop in preventable crashes, and they were able to raise their overall safe driving score.
Using technology to help evaluate driving performance and taking corrective action can really have a significant safety benefit for organizations. Using all the tools at your disposal can make a big difference as does having the right employee training and having strong employee engagement.
Think Out of the Box for Safety
[00:22:42] You might have to get out of your comfort zone and try something new in order to see better results. We’ve seen companies doing fun and innovative things: recording songs, creating videos, doing poster contests and the like.
I’m going to share one of these videos with you. This is from Helmrich and Payne, which is a drilling rig company that’s headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It’s a really interesting example of how you can engage your employees and really get them thinking about safety and in this case road safety.
The sound may be a little bit difficult. Hopefully it will come through, and I’m going to watch the chat and see if it doesn’t. Then we’ll be sure to share it with you afterwards, but let me go ahead and queue this up. This video will run for about four minutes.
Drive Safe Video and Song by Helmrich and Payne
“You might have to get out of your comfort zone and try something new in order to see better results. We’ve seen companies doing fun and innovative things: recording songs, creating videos, doing poster contests and the like.”
Austin, TX Safe Driving Program Example
[00:28:37] This is another example that I think is a great one. The city of Austin is also a vision zero city, and the city of Austin public works department was one of our 2019 Our Driving Concern winners as well.
So in addition to their driver improvement program, the public works department actually trained 100% of its city drivers with defensive driving instruction from NSC. They also included their entire executive staff. As a result, they experienced a 50% reduction in preventable collisions compared to the year prior.
That’s really important because it speaks to the power of training, making sure that people understand safe driving practices, that they understand that techniques to keep themselves in others safe on the road can really have a benefit to an organization.
Fleet Vehicle Markings Improve Safety in Chatham County
Another example comes from Chatham County in Georgia, and this one involved the county’s fleet of vehicles. So the county officials there had previously trained all of their fleet drivers, and they thought that would be enough. Yet, they were still having collisions.
Regarding the importance of digging into the data, that’s what they did. In their data analysis, they learned that most of the time, other drivers were at fault for those collisions that they were experiencing. They identified that rear end collisions were accounting for more than half of their total injuries and costs.
So they implemented a systemic approach to address this, which included using custom high visibility markings for their fleet that both increased the daytime and nighttime visibility of their vehicles. That effort reduced their lost time injuries from incidents by 64%. That’s a significant safety benefit for the folks down in Chatham County.
“…Custom high visibility markings for their fleet that both increased the daytime and nighttime visibility of their vehicles. That effort reduced their lost time injuries from incidents by 64%.”
“Co-pilot Rights” Safety Program at NSC
[00:31:58] Creating a culture of change takes time. It’s like turning the Titanic on a dime, but empowering your employees to be active players in your safety program implementation is a critical step.
At NSC, we developed something we call our “co-pilot rights” for passengers to encourage our employees to take action when they see others engaging in self unsafe behaviors. Our co-pilot rights include empowering our employees to speak up if you feel the driver’s distracted or doing something dangerous, say no to any behavior that draws the driver’s eyes off the road.
We ask our employees to help with the driving task, by serving as a engaged co-pilot, operating the radio or the GPS system, or watching for landmarks and traffic issues ahead, and empowering everyone to get home safely and to allow everyone else on the road to do the same.
One thing that you can think about to build engagement is to have your own staff develop your own list of co-pilot rights. That would create a sense of ownership for them.
How to Keep Investing in Driver Safety
[00:32:20] An effective driver safety program requires consistency and ongoing care and feeding; it simply is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Rather if you want real success, you’re going to need to regularly review what’s working and make the necessary course adjustments to address any areas that aren’t working.
You develop your plan, you implement that, and you enforce it – and then you regularly review and make adjustments as needed. It’s the same with how you address workplace safety broadly.
If you embrace the fact that the roadway is an extension of the workplace, and put in place a sound data-driven driver safety program, you’re going to ensure that your employees are supported from the workplace to any place.
You can help everyone get to their destination safely by emphasizing the use of those defensive driving techniques. By stressing that technology should only be used for good and not for convenience – so those infotainment systems and things like that.
And of course, by addressing things like driver fatigue. Creating a culture where you support your employees to be alert and focused on the drive every time is really imperative. We’ve got a lot of information about that in our safe driving tool kit.
“If you embrace the fact that the roadway is an extension of the workplace, and put in place a sound data-driven driver safety program, you’re going to ensure that your employees are supported from the workplace to any place.”
Final Thoughts: Safety as a Priority
[00:33:40] At NSC, our mantra is all about keeping each other safe. It is a fundamental thing for us. It literally is in our organizational DNA, and it’s in our organization name.
But take stock of the risks that your employees are facing, and empower your people to make their safety a priority. Because when you get it right, you have safer employees.
You’re going to have fewer costs and greater returns. Most importantly, you’re sending a message that you’re looking out for each other, and that is good for everyone. So I think that by joining us today, you’ve really demonstrated that you care about making your people safer, and that’s what it’s all about.
Q&A with Kelly Nantel
What are some common obstacles or pitfalls to avoid in implementing the safe driving program?
[00:35:03] A safe driving program has got to be comprehensive…You can’t piecemeal it together. You’ve really gotta have a comprehensive, overarching strategy and really think through all of your elements before you start to implement it.
That gives all of your employees a better sense that there’s a plan – there’s an organized structure to what you’re trying to achieve, and that also helps to create the necessary buy-in from your employees. Don’t piecemeal it; be really thoughtful. Develop a comprehensive overall strategy and plan for tackling the issue.
How about productivity? Have your members ever experienced drops in sales or productivity when people go phone-free company wide?
[00:36:01] That’s a question we get asked a lot because at the National Safety Council again, we do not support hands free. We recognize that hands free isn’t risk free.
Our preference is always a full cell phone ban when behind the wheel. Our experience has been that companies that ban cellphone use while driving usually have fewer crashes, have greater cost savings, and their productivity isn’t affected at all.
In fact, only about 1% of our member companies have reported any drop in their productivity. But when you compare that, even that 1%, with the dollars saved just by having fewer crashes, and less liability, the overall productivity isn’t affected in a way that should prevent any company from implementing a safe driving toolkit or a cell phone ban.
“…Companies that ban cellphone use while driving usually have fewer crashes, have greater cost savings, and their productivity isn’t affected at all.”
How do you know if your program is being embraced by your employees? Is there something to track besides incident rates?
[00:37:15] Employee engagement generally is an important element to an overall workplace safety strategy. That’s understanding how your employees feel about the policies and procedures that are in place that are designed to keep them safe.
We do regular employee engagement surveys to understand how our employees think about how we’re taking care of them and what policies we have in place to do that. So that’s one element.
Going back to some of those examples – getting your employees engaged with telling the story, making it personal to them, having them be a part of the implementation and the rollout is important.
And then keeping them engaged. It’s not a one and done, “Hey, we’ve done this, check the box, and now we’re moving on.” Keeping them engaged through ongoing interactions that are around the elements of safe driving, continuing to provide defensive driving training on an ongoing basis to your employees – it reinforces to them that you’re in it for the long haul, and that will tend to result in them being in it with you for the long haul.
The power of employee engagement surveys is an important one, not just for road safety, but to understand what your employees think about your overall safety program. There’s a lot of learnings that can come out of those kinds of engagement surveys.
“…Getting your employees engaged with telling the story, making it personal to them, having them be a part of the implementation and the rollout is important.”
Campaigns like “don’t drink and drive” have been successful, but campaigns to not use cell phones have not worked. Why?
[00:38:56] That’s a million dollar question. Why? There’s lots of theories. Some of it is that cell phones have become ubiquitous to us – that we all recognize the dangers when other people are doing it. We think that we’re good and safe drivers and that we can do it effectively.
The NSC has done lots of surveys over the years that show that people will point to the car next to them and say, “Oh my gosh, that person’s driving unsafely. They’re texting behind the wheel or they’re talking on their phone.” Yet we believe that we can do it. So, that’s part of it.
There have been organizations that are throwing a lot of money behind public education campaigns, and we have not seen the kind of reaction or reduction in the use of cell phones, handheld, hands free, or texting behind the wheel that you’d hope we would’ve seen.
Some of it is denial. Some of it is that we’re not pulling all the right levers. One of the things we know for certain with behavior change is it really takes three things:
It takes good laws, it takes solid enforcement, and it takes strong public education. The three-legged stool, they call it. If you don’t have all three legs of that stool, you’re not going to be able to affect the kind of behavior change that you need.
Distracted Driving Enforcement and Public Education
[00:40:23] When we’re struggling to have solid distracted driving laws passed in states around the country, that’s part of the problem. Enforcing distracted driving laws is a challenge for law enforcement.
You can’t always tell when someone is on their phone, or someone is texting, or someone’s using a hand free device. So enforcement is a little bit of a challenge…
Then public education. Again, we’re putting a lot of money out there on public education, but that alone isn’t going to solve the problem. It has become socially acceptable, which is really problematic. But there are a lot of lessons that we can learn from anti drunk driving efforts.
Those are things about not normalizing impaired driving. It’s no longer socially acceptable to get behind the wheel of a car after you’ve had several drinks. We need to create an environment where we have the same kinds of social pressure that it’s no longer socially acceptable to talk on your phone or text behind the wheel.
Employer Responsibility in Changing Distracted Driving Culture
[00:41:38] We’re not there yet, but part of the solution lies with employers. Employers are uniquely positioned to make a big difference in the lives of their employees by implementing policies and programs like I’ve been talking about that can really reinforce to your employees why they’re safe, why it’s important for their safety and the safety of others.
Again, our experience has been that when employers implement safety related policies, those behaviors tend to carry over into our personal lives. In that regard, employees can play a strong role in helping us to turn the tide on distracted driving.
“Employers are uniquely positioned to make a big difference in the lives of their employees by implementing policies and programs…when employers implement safety related policies, those behaviors tend to carry over into our personal lives.”
Many commercial vehicles are now equipped with hands free technology, almost inviting hands free use. How do safety managers combat technology advancements that may contradict safety policy?
[00:42:37] Thank you for that question. A combination of things: one is having very clear, enforceable policies on prohibiting use of in-vehicle systems. The second is leveraging technology.
I talked about the fact that there are lots of technology advancements on the market that can help a safety manager put in place a program that would prohibit a cell phone from working or that could disengage the system and an in-vehicle system that could disengage use of it for the driver.
It’s being creative. It’s looking at what technologies are emerging, what technologies are out there and are being proven effective, and using all the tools in your toolbox as the safety manager to help drive compliance.
It really starts with having solid policies that you can use to help drive behavior change and then backing it up with technological advancements that make it easier.
“It’s looking at what technologies are emerging, what technologies are out there and are being proven effective, and using all the tools in your toolbox as the safety manager to help drive compliance.”
When you look at people’s addiction to phones, especially younger new hires coming into the workforce, do you think we’re reaching a tipping point that will require technology to solve this?
[00:44:09] That’s something we talk about a lot. I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, but this idea of FOMO, fear of missing out, is a very real phenomenon.
The ubiquitous nature of our devices in our lives has created this addiction. It’s one we have to think about and attack holistically. Technology can be a game saver in this space. We can leverage technology that simply makes it such that you can’t use your device when you’re in a vehicle.
We know the technology exists. What we have to have is the will to implement it and then the public consensus to actually use it. We’re not there yet as a society, but we’re moving in that direction. Technology is going to have to help us out of this problem that it created for us.
Building off of that, do you recommend using technology to disengage cell phones completely versus using them to monitor cell phone use?
Use Data to Understand Your Unique Challenges
[00:45:38] It depends on what problem you’re trying to solve. That’s where using data is important. You’ve got to understand what your issues are, then develop a program that can address the issues that you’re facing.
It’s not one size fits all. There are different technology advancements that can aid a company or organization, then address the problems they might be facing. Whether that’s a complete lockout of a cell phone device in a vehicle or the cell phone is able to operate under certain circumstances.
Does it only address the driver seat compartment in a vehicle? There are lots of considerations that we need to look at. What I would be leery of is saying that there’s only one solution. There are multiple solutions, just as the problem is multifaceted.
In that regard, it’s really spending time to mine your data, to understand what your unique problems are and then going out and finding solutions that address them.
Safety Managers Should Continue to Reevaluate
[00:46:50] As I also said, it’s not a, “I fixed it” or a “one and done” kind of thing. You’ve got to constantly monitor your data and incidents, and understand is the problem shifting? Are people finding workarounds? Does it become easier to work around the solution that you’ve implemented because people haven’t bought into the culture of a safe driving program?
It’s not easy. It’s a daunting task to do this, but it’s achievable. What we’ve seen is companies who think about it from a comprehensive standpoint and develop a solid plan have the best results in the end. It’s not a one size fits all. We have to be flexible.
We know that technology is constantly changing. It’s constantly improving. The challenges that technology represents are continuously growing and changing. We’ve got to remain flexible and nimble as well.
Vehicles continue to get smarter crash avoidance. Do you believe this is giving the drivers a false sense of security and more opportunity to be distracted?
[00:48:18] Advanced driver assistance systems can be a game changer when it comes to driving down roadway fatalities. There’s no question about that. But we also know without question that drivers are confused by the technology they have in their vehicle.
In fact, more than 40% of drivers we surveyed said they were startled or surprised by something that their vehicle did. That’s not good. We also know that drivers don’t necessarily know what technology they have or what it’s meant to do or how it’s meant to aid them.
There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to educate drivers about advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) technology. We have a website called mycardoeswhat.org for that purpose. That’s a step in the right direction, but there is confusion out there, which can absolutely lead to overreliance on technology.
Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) Example
[00:49:20] Those technologies also perform to different standards. You can have a technology like Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB) that would imply to many people that the car will automatically break under certain circumstances, but those circumstances are different.
What the vehicle/technology does, differs from manufacturer to manufacturer and across makes and models. AEB in one vehicle might bring the vehicle to a complete stop. Whereas, in another vehicle, it might only prime the brakes to be more effective on a sudden stop. AEB might work at high speeds in one vehicle and only at low speeds in another.
That adds to the confusion, and it can add to the overreliance on technology if consumers don’t understand and have a deep knowledge of what the technology they have in their vehicles is intended to do. How is it intended to perform, and does it perform to the expectations?
The easy answer to your question is yes. There is a lot of concern over driver overreliance on technology, but we don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. We don’t want to stop iterating on these great technological advances.
Creating a Common Language for Advanced Driver-Assistance System (ADAS) Technology
[00:50:42] What we want to do is bring the consumer along on that journey with us, so that we have informed consumers who understand and know how to interact with these various driving technologies. Some of that is going to come through developing common nomenclature around these technologies.
My organization and AAA, JD power and consumer reports, all joined forces late last year to put out the first of its kind, set up, agreed upon nomenclature for ADAS technology. That’s our first step in trying to provide clarity to consumers.
Again, I talked about AEB, Automatic Emergency Braking. It’s referred to as 40 different things across various makes and models. Just clearing the confusion is a step in the right direction.
We’re starting to make some progress with that. The Secretary of Transportation, Secretary Chao, had put her support behind these definitions and recently the society for automotive engineers (SAE) also backed this effort. We’re excited about the potential to provide clarity to consumers.
“…We also know without question that drivers are confused by the technology they have in their vehicle. In fact, more than 40% of drivers we surveyed said they were startled or surprised by something that their vehicle did.”
What percentage of accidents cannot be prevented? Do you have those numbers?
[00:52:10] Accident by its very definition implies preventable. I would say zero. We know that all crashes are preventable. Some are harder to prevent than others, but they are. I talked about the road to zero. The road to zero is an important analogy to how many crashes or accidents are preventable.
You have to ask yourself not how many accidents are preventable, but how many are acceptable. And the answer to that should always be zero. Roadway crashes – how many of those are acceptable? 1, 2, 5? No, the number is zero.
None of them are acceptable, and if they’re not acceptable, that means that they are preventable, and we’ve got to find the right tools and put those tools in our toolbox to get there. But in my opinion, and I know I stand with a lot of people on this, all crashes are preventable.
“You have to ask yourself not how many accidents are preventable, but how many are acceptable. And the answer to that should always be zero. Roadway crashes – how many of those are acceptable? 1, 2, 5? No, the number is zero.”
We’re looking at the “new normal” right now: new mobile workplaces and this 100% connectivity that we seem to have. Everyone is expected to use technology to stay connected.
How do you balance the thought that a no cell phone policy just couldn’t work? How do you balance the, “we need you to be connected and available” with what is best for the safety of the driver, the company, or the roads?
[00:53:52] I don’t think that they’re mutually exclusive. With the pandemic, most folks are sheltering in place or working from their remote offices at home. That has put a stressor on us in terms of – there’s a blurry line between our workplace and our home life now.
That certainly is something that the National Safety Council is thinking about. How do we help our member companies, and our safety professionals, help your employees understand where to draw the line and that you’re empowered to to have clear boundaries within your work and home life?
When I think about that question from a distraction perspective in the vehicle, my example of Owens Corning and the CEO there who really embraced their cell phone ban, that’s the lesson for folks to take back and to build your case around. Less than 1% or just about 1% of companies report a drop in productivity.
Safety is not mutually exclusive from productivity. You can be safe and still be productive. That is embracing the idea that when you are traveling in a vehicle, we want your full attention to be on the driving task at hand.
“You getting from point A to point B safely, not impacting anyone who you encounter along the way in any adverse way, is good for our business. It’s good for our bottom line.” I think that’s the attitude that companies need to embrace.
Disclaimer: The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.