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The Dangers of Distracted Driving at Work

Posted by EHS Insight Resources on August 16, 2019 at 1:23 PM

In 2015, American drivers spent 84 billion hours on the road. A significant chunk of that time belonged to transportation workers.

And yet, for all the risks of driving a huge, heavy metal object at high speeds, drivers are still dealing with an avoidable risk: distracted driving.

The fact is, the dangers of distracted driving are too great to ignore, no matter how long you’ve been driving.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving happens anytime you focus on anything that’s not the road.

This could mean anything from taking your eyes off the road to taking your hands off the wheel. Anything that takes your mind off the primary task counts as distracted driving.

Many people drive to work every day, but workers in the transportation industry spend more time on the road than anyone else – leaving them at greater risk of transportation accidents than any other group.

In fact, truck and sales drivers are among the top ten most dangerous jobs in the country.

And while distracted driving isn’t the sole problem, it certainly makes things worse.

The Three Main Types

There are three main types of distracted driving:

  1. Visual distracted driving is when you take your eyes off the road. It might sound abundantly obvious, but you have to look where you’re going in order to drive. You wouldn’t turn or change lanes without looking first, and you shouldn’t do it in any other driving situation either.

  2. Manual distracted driving is when you take your hands off the wheel. This usually happens when you reach for something in the vehicle, eat, drink, adjust the radio, or use a mobile device.

  3. Cognitive distracted driving is when you take your mind off the road. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best multi-tasker on the planet – your brain can only process so much information at once, and while you might be able to see the road while thinking about something else, you’ll miss details that could prove dangerous.

Keep in mind that these distractions can come together in all sorts of ways, and anything that turns your attention away from driving counts as a distraction.

How Dangerous Is It?

That small distraction might seem harmless in the moment. After all, you’ve been driving for a long time. You know what you’re doing. It’ll be fine, right?

Most drivers think this. The problem is that they’re usually wrong.

When you’re driving a thousand-pound vehicle at high speeds, a small mistake can have huge consequences. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,166 people died in distracted driving accidents in 2017. And yet, about 481,000 drivers use their phones while driving during the day.

Let’s say you’re not driving a car. Let’s say you work as a truck driver and you’re driving a semi.

An 18-wheeler in the United States has a maximum weight of 80,000 pounds with a truck and full trailer (for context, that’s the same weight as an African elephant or a house, traveling at eighty miles an hour down the highway, entrusted to the care of a tired driver who’s been on the road for too long).

Basic physics says that heavy objects moving at high speeds don’t change direction or slow down quickly. If you drive while distracted and have to swerve to avoid hitting someone, you’re more likely to lose control of the truck than anything else.

When you’re on the road, the potential damage is exponentially higher than what you could inflict on your own. No distraction is worth risking other people’s lives.

Keeping Your Team Safe on the Road

The dangers of distracted driving can be avoided – if you know how to manage your team and create a safety culture. Explore more resources to help you develop and improve your road safety program.

Related Resources:

Topics: Workplace Health and Safety, Incident Management, Logistics and Transportation

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