ASSE Urges Drivers to Avoid Distractions

Oct. 11, 2002
Transportation incidents continue to be the leading cause of on-the-job deaths in the United States and account for nearly 43 percent of last year's workplace fatalities. Distracted driving contributed to many of those fatalities.

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is urging drivers to avoid distractions and drive safely, and for employers to review their vehicle operation policies. Distracted driving is a contributing factor between 25 and 50 percent of traffic crashes, about 4,000 to 8,000 crashes daily, according to the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS).

Annually, on-the-job traffic crashes result in over 2,500 deaths, close to 330,000 injuries and cost employers over $43 billion, according figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and can reduce employee productivity by 40 percent. To break it down further, on-the-job traffic crashes annually cost employers:

  • About $3.5 billion in property damage
  • $7.9 million in medical care and emergency service taxes
  • $17.5 billion for wage premiums
  • $4.9 billion for workplace disruption (to hire and train either new or temporary employees)
  • $8.5 billion in disability and life insurance costs

In "The Use of Electronic Devices in Motor Vehicles and Safe Driving Practices" policy paper (available at, ASSE recommends businesses take more responsibility for promoting safe driving techniques which include:

  • Increasing public outreach to reinforce the fact that a driver's first responsibility is the safe operation of a vehicle - this includes school based driver education, which has been drastically reduced the past few years.
  • Evaluation of employers' current vehicle operation practices and the creation and enforcement of written guidelines addressing employee use of electronic devices while driving.
  • Proactive training of employees about appropriate operation of electronic devices.
  • Increased research by the automotive industry and the manufacturers of electronic and other devices that are routinely used in vehicles to improve designs and functions to eliminate driver distractions.
  • Improved driver education - a significant component in securing safety on the roadways and in addressing the hazards of using cell phones while driving. Driver education should include training about eliminating or at least minimizing driver distractions and to show the extreme negative impact a slight distraction can have when an accident occurs, such as death or sustaining a lifelong injury or brain damage.
About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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