A crash course on preventing work-related motor vehicle accidents

Date Posted: 02/19/2024
Motor Vehicle Accident

Surveys find that most drivers consider themselves safer than average, but that’s not statistically possible. It raises questions of what most people consider “average” safety on the road. Anyone with a few years of driving experience would likely agree that “average” safety leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Work-related vehicle accidents account for more than 25,000 injuries per year. Motor vehicle accidents are also the leading cause of work-related fatalities with 1,369 road collisions and 325 pedestrian fatalities during 2022. Further, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than half of crashes don’t involve injuries, but those accidents still involve damage to vehicles and property, with corresponding costs to employers.

Employers may face workers’ compensation claims or higher insurance rates, and accidents obviously impact the injured workers and their families. To protect employees and the company, employers must take active measures. So what can employers do? Three basic steps can go a long way to improving driver safety. They are:

  1. Developing written policies and procedures
  2. Delivering training
  3. Implementing a system of incentives/rewards and discipline

Develop a written policy

A written policy should emphasize the company’s commitment to driver safety. It can also outline the safety rules while behind the wheel. Employees might even be required to sign a statement that they’ve received the rules and agree to abide by them, which can be helpful if discipline is later necessary. The policy should outline incentives for consistently following the rules, along with consequences for violations.

Finally, the policy could outline a process for investigating any accidents to evaluate what went wrong and what the driver could have done differently, similar to investigating any other workplace incident. The policy can recognize that motor vehicle accidents may happen through no fault of the employee, and if they could not have prevented it, the incident won’t be held against them.

Deliver training

Rules in a policy usually need expansion and clarification, preferably with illustrating examples. Telling employees to wear a seat belt, maintain awareness, schedule extra travel time for delays, and avoid road rage might seem obvious. Effective training should keep them engaged and get them thinking about their driving habits. Some kick-off questions might include:

  • Have you ever taken a phone call or read a text message while driving?
  • Have you ever gotten frustrated at another driver? Did that cause you to act inappropriately?
  • Have you ever dropped an item while driving and attempted to retrieve it?

These and other behaviors significantly increase the risk of accidents. And yet, even an “average” driver might do them occasionally. When employees recognize that they’ve committed unsafe acts, they’ll hopefully think twice about doing so again. When reviewing safe driving rules, include examples of what to do and what not to do such as:

  • Maintain constant awareness ahead, behind, and to the sides. Avoid distractions like using a phone or eating.
  • Show consideration for other drivers, and expect that some people will drive aggressively or poorly. Plan to be patient and plan to control your anger.
  • Schedule plenty of travel time to account for delays. Avoid speeding, tailgating, or other aggressive driving.

Rewards and consequences

Encouraging safe behavior is often more effective than disciplining unsafe behavior. Incentives might include consideration of compliance during annual performance reviews, or even giving bonuses for safe driving.

Employees must be made aware of any consequences for violations, and those consequences must be consistently enforced. Still, remind employees that the company enforces rules for safe driving to protect them from injury, and the company would rather reward safe behaviors than impose discipline for unsafe behaviors.

How Safety Management Suite Can Help

Safety Topic Webcasts

Millions of workers drive on the job and motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of workplace fatalities. This includes vehicle-to-vehicle crashes and pedestrian incidents. To help protect your traveling workers, join our webinar OSHA Training for Drivers on Thursday, February 29. This event also addresses driver challenges such as fatigue, adverse weather, emergency planning, and distractions. We’ll also look at OSHA regulations that may apply when drivers are loading and unloading, working in a warehouse, or otherwise not in the vehicle.

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