Figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that in 2014 crashes involving vehicles on public roadways were the leading cause of work-related fatalities, accounting for 23% of all workplace fatalities. In addition, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that in 2014 more than 32,000 people died and an additional 2.3 million people were injured in traffic accidents. The National Safety Council estimates that motor vehicle crash deaths rose 8% in 2015 from 2014, registering the highest year-to-year increase in 50 years. Crash deaths, which totaled 38,000 deaths, were the highest since 2008.
Moreover, the cost of accidents to employers is sky high, regardless of whether they occur on or off the job. It is estimated that the annual total economic cost to employers is around $250 billion, over $60 billion of which is attributed to the lost productivity of injured workers. Costs include medical treatment, legal expenses, property damage, and increased premiums for Workers’ Compensation, health and disability insurance. Employers also have to factor in loss of property, financial exposure to third-party litigation, and even reputational injury.
What is a leading cause of traffic accidents? Distracted driving, which includes talking on the phone, eating, texting, and checking email. These kinds of behaviors result in poor driving performance, which accounts for nearly 50% of all accidents. Indeed, drivers using devices like cell phones are four times more likely to be involved in injury crashes.
How can employers make a difference, help reduce accidents, lower costs? One important measure in reducing traffic accidents is implementing risk management practices that promote driver safety. For example, a driver safety program can be one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce vehicle-related injuries to employees, protect human and financial resources, and defend against legal liability caused by accidents involving company vehicles or company business.
Following is a program recommended by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) for the creation and implementation of a safe-driving policy. According to NETS, employers that have adhered to this program have experienced significant improvements in traffic safety performance, minimized risk of accidents, and even lower Workers’ Comp insurance costs.
- Get senior management’s commitment and have all employees involved. Senior management buy-in is vital to creating a safety conscious culture, as they will provide the leadership, set company policies, and allocate resources towards the creation of a safe workplace. It is also essential that employees are involved in planning the driver safety program.
- Set written policies and procedures. Established written policies will emphasize the company’s commitment to safe driving.
- Driver agreements. Consider requiring employees who drive on company business to sign an agreement acknowledging and agreeing to abide by the safe-driving program. This will ensure that employees understand the policies and expectations regarding driving.
- Conduct Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) checks. MVR checks should be conducted on all employees who drive on company business in order to eliminate poor drivers. Have the MVR checks updated periodically to ensure employees maintain good driving habits or to identify any need for driver-safety training.
- Crash reporting and investigation. Put in place a process for reporting crashes and investigating them. Employers need to vet the cause of crashes to determine whether they were preventable and to eliminate them from occurring down the road.
- Vehicle selection, maintenance, and inspection. Take care when selecting, maintaining, and inspecting company vehicles. Review the safety features of all vehicles under consideration and opt for those that are “best-in-class” in crash tests and overall safety. Additionally, make sure that these vehicles are on a routine preventative maintenance schedule.
- Disciplinary action system. Just like other violations of company policy, establish a progressive discipline system that provides for specific disciplinary actions as a result of traffic violations or crashes. This system will also allow for tracking whether employees/drivers are developing a pattern of bad driving habits.
- Reward/incentive program. Where employees drive safely, the bottom line will be reflected. Reward such positive results through recognition, bonuses, special privileges, or other incentives. The goal is to keep employees motivated and driving safely.
- Driver training/communication. Continually provide driver-safety training and communicate with employees about safe driving. All drivers will benefit from routine training about driver safety and driving skills.
- Regulatory compliance. Be cognizant of any local, state, and federal laws that regulate company vehicles or employees who drive on company business.
At Caitlin Morgan, we specialize in offering Workers’ Compensation solutions to clients that include guaranteed cost coverage, large deductible programs, self-insurance, and captive programs. We emphasize strong risk management practices to help contain costs, reduce medical expenses, and keep Comp premiums in line. Driver safety programs are a critical component of a risk management program to help stem injuries and accidents. For more information about our Workers’ Compensation programs, please contact us at 877.226.1027.