- What is distracted driving?
- Why distractions are risky
- Tips for employers
- Tips for drivers
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of fatal crashes in BC. It’s also preventable. And it’s not just about phone use. There are many potential distractions. Learn how anything that takes attention away from driving can put people at risk.
What is distracted driving?
It’s any activity that diverts a driver’s attention while behind the wheel — even for a moment. The distraction can be something we hear, see, touch, or think about. Examples include:
- Texting or calling (even hands-free)
- Using any electronic device, such as a smartwatch
- Adjusting the vehicle seat, mirrors, or entertainment systems
- Eating or drinking
- Talking with passengers
Why distractions are risky
It’s a myth that our brain can multi-task. It can only deal with a certain amount of information at once. That means your can’t drive safely when you’re distracted. Driving while talking on the phone or dealing with restless children, for example, can take your mind and eyes off the road. The result can be decreased reaction time and compromised judgement. According to ICBC, distracted driving is responsible for 29% of all fatal crashes in BC.
Mobile phones are one of the most common driving distractions. Drivers are 3.6 times more likely to crash when they’re on their phone. In fact, research suggests that texting is the new drunk driving. A distracted driver can function — or malfunction — in much the same way a drunk driver does. Both have impaired capabilities and judgment. Both have the potential to cause serious injury to themselves and others on the road.
Tips for employers
Anyone in your organization who drives on the job can be at risk. This includes, for example, delivery drivers, managers, warehouse workers, office staff, and sales reps.
It’s important to remember that most distracted driving is preventable. And preventing crashes can help protect your business from increased insurance premiums, possible litigation expenses, lost productivity, negative publicity, and a decrease in employee morale.
You can take action to reduce distraction. Here are steps employers can take to help reduce the risk:
Policies and procedures set out the expectations in your workplace. Use our Distracted Driving Policy Template (Word 32KB) to create the guidelines. Follow these steps:
- Talk with your employees to get their input on any changes that should be made.
- Add, delete, or change any wording in the template to better fit your workplace.
- Meet with your employees to explain it and answer their questions.
- Have employees sign the policy to show they understand and agree to follow it
- Give a copy of the signed policy to the employee and put a copy in their personnel file.
Review the policy annually to make sure it still fits your workplace circumstances.
Effective policies are clearly communicated, understood by your drivers, and consistently enforced. Educate, instruct, train, and supervise all of your drivers. Communicate the policy and practices to your managers and employees often. Use our Communications Plan Template (PDF 32KB) to help share the information effectively.
Have your drivers create an “I’m behind the wheel” voice message before they begin driving. Instruct them to first safely pull over and park if they need to take a call, answer a text, or check voicemail. Encourage them to take rest breaks, which help reduce fatigue and also give them a chance to check their phones.
Policies apply to everyone. Don’t undermine yours by not following them. Model safe driving by not making calls while on the road.
Avoid contacting your drivers unless it’s an emergency. If you do need to send them some information, require drivers to pull over before returning the call or reading the text.
Invite your drivers to help you set goals for eliminating distracted driving. Provide incentives and recognize and reward drivers who consistently demonstrate safe driving practices.
Tips for drivers
If you’re caught distracted driving, you’ll be ticketed and receive a fine of $368. Every ticket also adds 4 driver penalty points to your driving record. If you have 4 or more points at the end of a 12-month period, you pay a premium on your insurance. You may also have to pay a premium if you get more than 1 distracted driving ticket in a 3-year period.
You can be distracted even when driving for only a few minutes. Here are some steps you can take to help reduce your risk:
On the road, the smartest phone is one that’s turned off. So shut yours off before driving. Even hands-free operation of your device can put you at risk. It reduces manual distraction but not cognitive distraction.
- Place your phone securely in its cradle or the glove box.
- Set it so that any incoming calls go directly to voice mail.
- Record a phone message telling callers that you are busy driving and will call back once you can safely pull over.
- Safely pull over if you have to send or respond to a text or call.
- Program your route before you set out on the trip. Take note of key streets and intersections. Rehearse the directions.
- Securely mount the device in a readily visible location. It can’t reduce your view of the area around your vehicle.
- Pull over to check directions. Reading takes as much visual, cognitive, and manual concentration as texting.
- Avoid using speech recognition features.
- Don’t display video images.
- Pre-program your playlist before setting out. If you need to select a new playlist, find a safe place and pull over.
- Eat or have a snack before driving.
- Plan to stop for a snack every 2 hours. Choose a safe spot to pull over. Avoid doing it near intersections, school zones, construction zones and merge lanes.
- Pause the conversation at critical driving moments.
- Involve passengers. Get them to watch the traffic, handle phone calls, be your navigator, and control music selection.
- Take care of your grooming needs before you get in the vehicle.
- Don’t groom yourself while stopped at red lights. Find a safe place to pull over before reaching for makeup, a razor, etc.
- Keep grooming items out of reach. Put them in the glove box or back seat to avoid the temptation to use them when driving.