The dangers of distracted driving


Editor's note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and was completely revamped and updated in July 2018 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

It's not falls, fires or chemical exposure that kills workers the most on the job. OSHA reports that motor vehicle crashes are actually the leading cause of death in the workplace today. As most industries must ship or transport products across the country every day, employers must be aware of the dangers associated with distracted driving.

Anytime you take your eyes off the road, hands off the wheel or let your mind wander, you're considered a distracted driver. There are three types of driving distractions that you'll want to avoid: manual, visual, and cognitive distractions.

distracted driving

What are manual driving distractions?

Manual driving distractions lead you to take one or both of your hands off the wheel. Some examples include eating or drinking while driving; adjusting your mirrors, seat, or seatbelt; and searching through your wallet or purse.

To help cut down on these distractions, always try to prepare as much as possible before getting on the road. Before you start driving, take a few moments to ensure that your mirrors are in the correct positions, and that your seat and belt are set comfortably. It's also a good idea to factor meal times into your schedule so that you won't feel rushed or pressured into eating or drinking on the road in order to make it to your destination on time.

driver adjusting gps, distracted driving

What are visual driving distractions?

Visual driving distractions cause your eyes to wander off of the road. Checking or putting your destination into your GPS, fiddling with radio stations and volume levels, and adjusting temperature controls are all common visual distractions.

Before getting on the road, set your GPS and temperature levels. When you're driving a new or unfamiliar vehicle, you should get to know the car's controls before a trip so that you spend as little time as possible locating any dial you need to adjust while driving. Finally, if you have passengers, you can put them in charge of changing the temperature and music.

What are cognitive driving distractions?

Cognitive driving distractions cause you to take your focus off of your driving. Talking to another passenger, day dreaming, road rage, drowsy driving, or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol all let your attention drift away from your driving.

To help maintain your focus, make sure you get plenty of rest before a long trip. If you find yourself feeling anxious, stressed, or agitated by any situations in your driving environment, take deep breaths and keep your mind on the road. If you need to, find a safe place to pull over and take a break. For your safety, avoid pulling over on the side of a busy street, or in dark and isolated places.

Texting while driving

You may have noticed that some of the distractions mentioned above can actually fall into multiple categories. These activities are the most dangerous!

Texting is one of the most destructive forms of distractions because it technically falls into ALL three categories. When you're texting, you're taking at least one hand off the wheel, are looking at your phone instead of the road and the vehicles around you, and are also concentrating on your conversation. To keep yourself and other drivers safe, put your phone away for the duration of your trip and don't let yourself use it until you've stepped out of the car. You might also want to consider using smartphone apps that can lock your phone or block calls and texts while you're on the road.

If you're a driver of a commercial vehicle, you must comply with federal mobile phone restrictions and your employer may even have implemented a policy banning cell phone use.

In order to keep workers safe, employers should provide them with online safety training and create best practice guidelines for safe driving. Just remember: Distracted driving is dangerous driving.

For more information, contact IndustrySafe today to learn about our online distracted driving prevention training courses and training tracking software.

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