Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Decreasing Distracted Driver Danger

Getting drivers and staff members to wear seat belts is a low-hanging fruit safety measure. Vehicle accidents account for a significant number of humanitarian worker injuries and fatalities, and using seat belts is a simple and effective way to mitigate risk.

Once you get an effective seat belt policy and program in place for your organization, you can further reduce risk by raising awareness of the dangers of driver inattention. This is a bigger issue than you may think. In 2009, an estimated 20% of vehicle crashes in the U.S. were a result of driver inattention. You've probably heard that talking on a cell/mobile phone while driving can cause accidents – one study showed that using a cell phone while driving, whether hand-held or hands-free, delayed a driver's reaction time as much as having a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent (the legal limit in the U.S., Canada, and U.K., but legally drunk in most other countries). Phones are just the tip of the iceberg. Lots of research has been done on other activities that can distract a driver and prevent him or her from seeing and/or responding to something that could cause an accident. Here's a chart from a study that shows the percentages of crashes with fourteen common sources of driver distraction (one or more distractions may have been present in a crash):

Any activity that takes a driver's focus away from the road can increase risk, but as you can see, some are more risky than others. (While much distraction research tends to be U.S.-focused, it's reasonable to assume the basic findings apply elsewhere in the world.)

Considering the accident statistics, developing a distracted driver education program for your organization and adding appropriate policies (such as no cell phone use while driving) is a worthwhile investment that could save lives.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has an excellent Web site (www.distraction.gov) with lots of information including research and workplace educational material.



Anonymous Thomas Mclean said...

an interesting article, that i thoroughly enjoyed reading.

9:19 AM  

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