Help Defend Against America’s Distracted Driving Epidemic

Words:

Words: Senior National Account Executive Nate Oland, Federated Insurance
Photos: Federated Insurance

Would you ever agree to drive the length of a football field with your eyes closed? Probably not—and yet, at 55 mph, that’s approximately how far your vehicle will have traveled while you’ve spent five seconds reading or composing a text message instead of focusing on the road ahead.

Distracted driving is an epidemic that claims the lives of thousands of Americans each year.1 Businesses in the wholesale-distribution industry are not immune to the devastation. If anything, these operations are uniquely vulnerable to experiencing a devastating vehicle crash as employees may be driving large trucks that require a longer stopping distance and have a high profile that is more susceptible to wind.

Beyond the heartbreaking injuries and fatalities, distracted driving can also have a significant financial impact on your business should you find yourself in court. In recent years, jury awards against businesses have skyrocketed when a company driver is involved in a vehicle crash. Many believe this is due to “social inflation,” which refers to negative public sentiment and mistrust toward businesses among jury members. Jurors appear to no longer be looking to simply compensate for bodily injuries and pain and suffering. Instead, they are sending a clear message that businesses can be held accountable for the actions of their employee drivers by returning “nuclear verdicts.” A nuclear verdict is an award that is significantly higher than would be expected given the facts of the case and can be loosely defined as an award exceeding $10 million.

Here are a few things to consider when striving to help protect your company and employees from the distracted driving epidemic.

Educate Your Company Drivers on the Types of Distracted Driving. There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: anything that takes your eyes off the road
  • Manual: anything that takes your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: anything that takes your mind off the task of driving

Create a Strong Driving Policy. A strong policy could:

  • Prohibit company drivers from using mobile devices and other distractions behind the wheel
  • Where appropriate, incorporate driver standards and screening for company drivers
  • Outline expectations for safe vehicle usage
  • Clarify consequences for failure to follow the company policy
  • Go beyond the minimum local, state, and federal laws applicable to your business

Communicate and Enforce Your Policy. Every employee should be trained and regularly retrained on your driving policy and safe driving practices. Present information in a fresh and memorable way to increase retention when you reinforce the message with your team. Also, follow through on the consequences of failing to comply with your company’s driving policy consistently. If a jury sees that your policy lacks “teeth,” this could help support the plaintiff’s claim that your business was negligent.

It is possible to prevent distracted driving and the devastating vehicle crashes it causes—but it starts with you. Take time to promote safe driving at your business with the help of risk management resources from Federated Insurance. Thank you for doing your part to help everyone make it home safely today.

1. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Statistics 2018. www.nhtsa.gov/risk-driving/distracted-driving. Accessed 2.8.21.


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