Every organization with employees who operate a vehicle on the job should have a vehicle safety policy. Addressing distracted driving is a key way to strengthen your organization's policy and reduce company risk.
Distracted driving statistics on U.S. highways
For the past year, many American workers have driven far less than usual due to pandemic-related restrictions, with many working from home during this time. With much of the country in the process of fully reopening, many organizations will see their employees resuming pre-pandemic levels of vehicle travel.
You would think that in 2020 traffic fatalities would have decreased due to fewer cars on the road. But that was not the case. U.S. highway fatalities actually rose by 8% in 2020, as reported by the National Safety Council (NSC) and reinforced by preliminary data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
One major culprit was increased speeding. But another increasingly pervasive problem is distracted driving. According to the NSC, every day, seven people are killed in incidents involving distracted driving. Another 700 are injured daily as a result of distracted driving.
With many states restricting cell phone use to hands-free devices, it is creating a perception that hands-free calls and voice texts are completely safe. However, this is false. The NSC found that talking on the phone, even with a hands-free device, reduces a driver's visual awareness by 50%.
Protecting your company and employee drivers
Whether your organization provides a company car or reimburses employees for the use of a personal vehicle, you need to know that distracted driving creates costly liabilities for employers. When an employee causes a vehicle accident on the job, the employer can be held accountable based on the legal doctrine of respondeat superior.
A company-wide vehicle safety policy is an important part of decreasing potential liability in the case of an accident that causes significant property damage, injuries, or a fatality. With distracted driving an increasing factor in vehicle accidents, it is crucial to mitigate this area of risk.
Requiring employees to maintain sufficiently high auto insurance coverage on their personal vehicle is an important first step, one that is easily tied to their regular reimbursement or car allowance. This step provides one layer of protection for both the employee and the company in the event of an employee-caused accident.
More importantly, though, an organization needs to take proactive steps to prevent accidents in the first place through the company-wide driver safety policy. Here are four steps you can take to decrease the risk of an accident in the first place.
1. Perform regular motor vehicle record checks
The costliest risk from an employee accident is getting slapped with a negligent entrustment lawsuit – a suit alleging that the employer negligently put a worker on the road who should not have been entrusted with a vehicle or a job requiring a vehicle. One concrete way to evidence negligent entrustment is to produce a motor vehicle record (MVR) showing repeated violations by the driver in question.
If an organization does not regularly check its employees' MVRs, and take action if violations have occurred, then it is difficult to prove due diligence in the matter of entrusting an employee with a vehicle or job requiring a vehicle. Read more about setting up routine MVR checks.
2. Incentivize or require driver safety training
There are numerous defensive driving or driver safety courses out there. By incentivizing or requiring employees to take one of these courses, it can both reduce the risk of an accident and serve as evidence of proactive measures to prevent accidents if an accident does occur.
It is especially important to adopt a training course that can be used as a responsive measure when an MVR report reveals a recent violation. If you do not take action when a violation has occurred, then you might as well not run MVR checks.
3. Promote a culture of safe driving.
Mobile employees have busy work lives and often face a lot of pressure, especially those who operate in sales. This reality can make it seem absolutely necessary to conduct work via a mobile device while driving. However, knowing that even hands-free devices cause distracted driving, does it make sense to tacitly encourage productivity over safe driving?
Banning the use of cell phones while driving is a best practice for companies seeking to reduce the risk of an accident. But it is not enough to have a written policy to that effect. You also have to create a company culture that encourages safe driving and removes the pressure to multi-task.
4. Choose a 100% hands-free mileage tracker.
Your mobile employees likely have to keep track of their mileage for reimbursement purposes, in which case they likely use a mileage tracking app on their phone or tablet. (If they are still logging mileage on an outdated spreadsheet, that's a different kind of problem.)
It is best to use a mileage app that automatically records mileage once the car reaches a certain speed threshold. That way, employees never have to fiddle with it while driving. If it ends up logging mileage in error, the employee can always go back and edit the record later.
Implementing employee driving policies
Whether your organization offers a company vehicle or has employees using their own vehicles for work, you probably already have a detailed driver policy in writing. It likely covers items such as driving under the influence, speeding and other moving violations, age and maintenance of vehicle, etc.
Make sure that, in 2021, your organization takes the time to review these policies and does everything possible to reduce the risk of distracted driving. Then make sure that management properly implements and enforces these policies among the drivers.
For help developing a stronger driver safety policy, contact mBurse today, or visit our Professional Services page to learn more about our risk mitigation services and reimbursement rate development services.