April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, but the topic might as well be a year-round initiative.
The National Safety Council estimates that in 2016, roughly 40,000 people died in motor vehicle crashes — the highest total in nine years and an alarming 14% increase from just two years ago.
“From an insurance industry perspective, [distracted driving] is the No. 1 issue for automobile safety, as the vast majority of people admit they frequently drive while talking on the phone, texting, eating, or doing any number of other activities,” says Bill Schaffner, director of risk management for Builders Mutual Insurance Company.
Schaffner oversees many of the safety and loss prevention initiatives for Builder Mutual’s contractor clients. He says that while auto coverage makes up a very small portion of his business, the numbers don’t lie. Many more employers should be mindful of how often their workers are potentially distracted while operating company vehicles.
“The biggest concern that we have is that this is not a big concern for many of our contractor policy holders,” Schaffner said. “There are many other day-to-day concerns [employers] have that might seem like higher priorities, but taking the time to properly and thoroughly train [their employees who operate company vehicles] about safe driving — both on and off the project site — should be among their top priorities.”
Schaffner says that some contractors are taking additional measures to improve safety, like installing video cameras in the cabins of work vehicles. But such methods are infrequently used and often seen as too costly.
However, creating and maintaining a comprehensive training program for employees that includes a safe-driving component is still one of the most valuable and worthwhile strategies.
To inform builders and contractors about their liability and identify ways they can better educate their employees, NAHB compiled a report that lists several guidelines to consider when drafting a distracted driving policy.