Risk Insider: Dwayne Eastwood

Corporate Risks of Distracted Driving

By: | March 2, 2015

Dwayne M. Eastwood, MBA, ARM, CSP, CFPS, CEAS III, is the risk manager for McCoy’s Building Supply, a building supply retailer with 87 locations. He received a B.S. in Fire Protection and Safety from Oklahoma State University and earned his MBA from Howard Payne University. He can be reached at [email protected]

In high school, I drove a car to and from a part-time job. My father warned me to stay away from drivers under the influence. One night, I was at a stoplight next to someone and glanced over. It was then I realized I had no idea if he was under the influence or not. The next day, I asked my father how to identify another driver who may be under the influence.

He said, the driver will not maintain a consistent speed and will not keep the vehicle centered in the lane. If you use those same indicators today, that driver will most likely be talking on a hand-held cellular devise or texting. While that seems rather dramatic, more and more federal, state and local laws are being passed across our country.

Companies not only need to help their drivers comply, but companies need to protect themselves.

In a recent news story, a man was cited for eating a hamburger while driving.

A wide sweeping change for the country came from the Federal Motor Carrier Administration – Department of Transportation (DOT). The regulations outline penalties for those drivers with a commercial driver license. Those penalties include civil penalties up to $2,750 and driver disqualification for multiple offenses.

The company is also required to restrict the use of texting or use of a cell phone, and may be subject to civil penalties up to $11,000. However, DOT allows the use of a hands-free device.

What is the risk?

According to DOT, the odds of being involved in a crash, near crash or lane deviation are 23.2 times greater for the drivers who are texting than those who are not. Texting drivers take their eyes off the road an average of 4.6 seconds. Drivers dialing a cell phone are six times greater than those who are not to be involved in a safety incident.

According to the National Safety Council, one in four vehicle crashes are a result of using a hand-held cell phone.

What is a distraction while driving a vehicle? Distracted driving not only pertains to texting or talking on a cell phone but to many other distractions, which include eating, drinking and reaching for something out of reach.

Never stare at an object for more than a second or two. Scan the roadway including mirrors constantly to identify hazards.

In a recent news story, a man was cited for eating a hamburger while driving. That law reads, in part: “A driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle.”

Bottom line, legislation is changing from community to community. It is getting more and more difficult to determine if there is a distracted driving law in effect or not while driving and the definition of distracted driving according to the law.

It is extremely important for a company to prepare a policy statement and educate all employees of what that policy is and the penalties that may follow.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]