Workers whose jobs put them behind the wheel feel pressured to stay in touch during the workday despite distracted driving increasing the risk of an accident, according to data from several surveys released last week.
Experts who weigh in say that the corporate culture must change, despite the existence of distracted driving policies on paper.
“Sixty-eight percent (of companies) have policies. But when we ask individuals, people who may work with the same company, we find that only a quarter know there is a policy,” said Chris Hayes, Hartford, Connecticut-based Vice President of Risk Control. for workers’ compensation and transportation at Travelers Cos. Inc., which released its Travelers Risk Index for Distracted Driving on March 30.
These data, taken from two separate surveys of 1,000 individuals and 1,000 managers, suggest that work-related stress can lead to distracted driving. 86 percent of managers expect employees to respond to work-related communication at least sometimes when they are out of the office during working hours, and 33 percent expect employees to respond to or participate in job interviews while driving, the surveys found.
Mr. Hayes called the existence of distracted driving policies and the common practice of receiving job interviews on the road to a “disconnection” in the workplace safety culture. It is a “lack of security culture, not policy,” he said.
Travelers found that the expectations of supervisors and the company may contribute to the discovery that 42% of respondents said they take work-related calls, text messages or emails while driving. When asked why, 43% of those surveyed indicated that it could be a work-related emergency, 39% thought they must always be available and 19% said their boss would be upset if they did not respond.
A separate survey of 2,000 adults, also released on March 30, by Selective Insurance Group Inc. and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, found that 39% of drivers participated in a video call while driving at work – a finding that struck experts as particularly outrageous.
Mike Mazzarella, Vice President, Commercial Lines at Branch Hill, New Jersey, at Selective Insurance, said the workforce culture is behind the issue.
Employers “need to create the culture that the road is a priority, not take that call from even their boss or feel the need to attend a meeting,” he said.
Jeremy Bethancourt, Phoenix-based security consultant and co-founder of the advocacy organization Drive Smart Arizona, said companies risk offering “lip service” for distracted driving instead of having an iron-fisted policy of supervision. “Companies literally have to make the decision to do so,” he said. “They simply have to say, ‘We will have a policy and follow it, because we know this is dangerous.'”
Cathy Chase, Washington-based president of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, said blaming employers is equivalent to the problem that most Americans use devices while driving – whether at work or for personal reasons. She said, however, that employers can lead the responsibility for changing practices.
“No one should ever feel pressured to use a device behind the wheel,” she said. “The problem is pervasive across the country for both personal and professional driving.”
Can hands-off devices help? No, claims Ryan Pietzsch, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania-based technical consultant for driver safety programs at the National Safety Council. “It’s really inattention. We called it distracted driving, but when we did the research we’re talking about inattentive driving.
“Driving takes a lot of attention, no matter where we are,” Pietzsch said, adding that a person taking a call or message does not pay as much attention as needed to traffic conditions, other drivers, road hazards. and signage.
“If we are inattentive to these inputs, we miss them; it is information we can not act on,” he said.