Of all the dangers employees face while navigating the workplace, few are as hazardous as the open road. Traffic accidents accounted for 26 percent of all workplace fatalities in 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Approximately 1,264 workers perished while on work-related trips, with more than half operating semi, tanker or tractor trailer trucks.
These deaths not only hurt families and erode worker morale but also impact the bottom line, as companies spends thousands on fines and settlements. Non-fatal traffic accidents are similarly destructive, damaging company culture and destabilizing the balance sheet.
In all, employers spend $60 million per year in health care, legal services and repair-related wrecks, according to data from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Most pay around $16,500 per event. Accidents involving injuries cost employers an average of $74,000 and those involving fatalities can surpass $500,000.
Why do these accidents occur?
Aggressive driving is a common cause. Risky maneuvers such as speeding or tailgating all fall into this category, according to AAA. Acts of vehicular assault also apply. On-road anger, colloquially called “road rage,” often precipitates these behaviors. These acts are surprisingly frequent and sometimes catalyze major traffic accidents. Between 2003 and 2007, analysts at AAA studied wrecks across the country and found that aggressive driving played a part in more than half of these events.
Distracted driving is also a contributing factor. More than 50 percent of motorists deal with distractions while navigating highways and byways, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Mobile devices are often to blame, as drivers take their eyes off the road to answer messages or receive calls. Most states have banned such activities but a large majority of operators continue these habits. Many are involved in accidents as a result. In 2014, more than 16 percent of all wrecks involved distracted drivers, the CDC found.
Night driving is a serious problem as well, especially for those in the logistics and transportation industries. Truckers working extended hours sometimes fall asleep at the wheel due to fatigue, according to the National Safety Council. Even drivers who manage to stay awake may suffer from diminished night vision. Hazards abound in both situations.
There are myriad resources available to companies looking to quash these bad behaviors, improve worker safety and prevent traffic accidents. Driving courses can equip workers with the knowledge and skills they need to deftly handle themselves on the road. The NSC recommends emphasizing defensive maneuvers, which can come in handy frustration takes over.
Additionally, organizations should establish internal regulations banning the use of mobile devices while driving. Training on the dangers of distracted driving should accompany these policy changes.
New policies can be used to address night driving as well. When it comes to driving in the dark, maintaining low dash light levels can help with visibility. On top of that, motorists should look away from oncoming headlamp beams to prevent momentary vision loss. Enterprises can of course address the risks at once by instituting strict driving schedules that expressly prohibit drivers from navigating the roads at odd hours.