Imagine a driver texting while behind the wheel. If you’re like many people, you might be picturing a teen or young driver. That’s only natural – we all know how much teens love to text, and that combined with youthful feelings of invincibility can culminate in dangerous texting-while-driving behavior. But teen drivers aren’t the only demographic known for using their phones on the road: Multi-tasking employees who conduct business while driving are becoming an increasing concern for highway safety.
According to Douglas R. Horn, a distracted driving prevention expert, the new trend of business multitasking on the highway may rival the problem of teen texting in terms of fueling America’s distracted driving crisis.
“The need to work longer and harder in a very challenging economy and the proliferation of smart phones containing a multitude of business applications have combined in a perfect storm to entice millions of Americans to be continually ‘on-the-job’ even when they are behind-the-wheel,” said Horn, founder of the driver’s safety organization Drive By Example. “The physical activity of driving the car has now become subordinate to accomplishing work-related or income-generating tasks.”
The Employer’s Role
Our work-oriented society and the availability of technology 24/7 – even when we’re driving – can be a deadly combination. Horn suggests that education, rather than legislation, will prove to be the key for reducing highway injuries and fatalities resulting from multi-tasking on the highways, and the best venue for such education can be found in the private sector’s corporate environment.
“Corporations and businesses have a tremendous vested interest in educating their employees on the dangers of distracted driving,” Horn said. “Recent multi-million-dollar judgments against corporations whose employees killed or injured other drivers and/or their passengers while using cell phones or smart phones have forced companies to open their eyes and become proactive in instructing their employees on safe driving practices.”
Horn said that human resource managers can implement distracted driving prevention into their existing corporate wellness programs. Furthermore, businesses should be encouraged and rewarded for ensuring their workers are multitasking in the office instead of on the road. That means employers need to be involved and regularly interact with their employees about safe driving behavior in order to help change the culture.
“Regular, ongoing instruction delivered to employees in the corporate environment over the long term is what will be effective in changing driving behavior,” Horn said. “The existence of a single law, rule or policy is likely to have little benefit without continual reinforcement in the work environment.”