Promoting Safety for On-the-Job Drivers

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of work-related fatalities in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that occupational-related accidents result in 2,000 deaths a year. That figure accounts for more than 30 percent of the total work-related deaths.

Occupational traffic safety isn't something that should only concern the transportation industry. The issue needs to be addressed across all business sectors, especially wherever on-the-job driving is involved. Other businesses that face traffic risks include utility companies, postal services, and construction companies. Obviously, law enforcement personnel (e.g. police driving in patrol cars) need to be concerned about driving safety, too, as do emergency services personnel (ambulance and fire truck drivers), and sales representatives who use company cars.

An International Problem
Traffic-related deaths and injuries are a major problem outside of the United States, too.

* Australian researchers indicate that, in their country, half of all work-related fatalities occur on roads, including travel to and from work.
* In the United Kingdom, a 2001 study presented to a work-related road safety task group found that between 25 and 33 percent of all serious and fatal collisions were work-related.

Promoting Driver Safety
Safety experts suggest that employers approach occupational driving as they would other on-the-job health and safety risks. This would include starting driver safety programs for all employees who drive both on and off the job. Such programs would include defensive driving education designed to help employees avoid collisions whenever they get behind the wheel.

Defensive driving programs should be highly recommended as they teach drivers how to take precautions that go above-and-beyond what is required by existing traffic laws. In a typical course, drivers learn the essentials of defensive driving, how and why various collisions occur, and what measures can be taken to prevent accidents.

The Canada Safety Council's Defensive Driving Course serves as a good model. It includes eight one-hour modules, with five core topics and one optional topic. Some of the topics include:

* Preventable collisions
* Driving conditions
* Driver attitude
* Impairment
* Intersections and passing
* Winter driving
* Fuel efficiency
* Driver distractions

Who's Responsibile?
While it is true that safe driving is an individual's responsibility, employers have an ethical responsibility -- to their employees and to the public -- to promote safe driving. Along with defensive driving courses, employers' efforts should also include maintenance programs for all company vehicles and training for all workers whose duties include on-the-job driving. Employers should also check driving records before they let any employee get behind the wheel of a company-owned vehicle.

-- Dan Harvey

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