Ask commuters in the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City areas if they’ve seen drivers using their cell phones while driving, and the answer will likely be “yes.” In fact, proprietary research conducted for UFG Insurance appears to back up that statement, with four in ten drivers admitting that they have sent a text while driving, half have read a text, and six in ten have talked on a hand-held phone while driving.
Distracted driving is an epidemic and it’s a special concern in industries that have employees who spend their workday behind the wheel. Whether it’s a florist shop delivery van or an oversized 18-wheeler hauling heavy machinery, employees who drive as part of their job are often expected to communicate with their offices, customers, etc. while on the road.
Unfortunately, the idea that drivers can multi-task on the road—calling customers, checking in with the home office or catching up on voicemails— has led to the belief that hands-free devices and apps are a safe alternative to using a regular cell phone, but that is far from the truth. In fact, studies recognized by the National Safety Council (NSC) show that hands-free devices are no safer than handheld phones, as the brain remains focused on a cell phone conversation over the main task of driving.
So what can business owners in The Corridor do to ensure the safety of their employees when their job involves driving?
Start by creating—and enforcing—a company distracted driving policy. While policies can be tailored to your own specific needs, consider including these rules and guidelines in a policy:
■ Keep cell phones and hands-free devices off while the vehicle is moving. Set voicemail to handle your calls and return them when safe.
■ If you need to place a call or a text, pull off the road to a safe location and stop the vehicle before using your phone.
■ Inform regular callers of the best time to reach you based upon your driving schedule. Modify voicemail greetings to indicate that you are unavailable to answer calls or return messages while driving.
■ Install a cell phone motion app that disables a phone when it detects motion.
Once you have created a policy, require employees to review and sign it. If you’re starting from scratch with a new policy, make it an event: hold a company-wide meeting to talk about the dangers of distracted driving, the ramifications for the company, and most importantly, the consequences for an employee who has driven while distracted. After the presentation, have policy sheets ready for employees to review and sign.
Keep in mind that a distracted driving policy doesn’t need to be limited to businesses and business owners. The eight basic rules that make up a policy can also be applied to families, and signed as pledges.
The Worth It Distracted Driving Awareness program from UFG Insurance offers downloadable pledge cards and policy forms that can be used by businesses and families alike. Visit the UFG Worth It website to access all of the Worth It materials.