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Distracted Driving: Building a Better Fleet Policy

Tips and Advice Posted by Dan Darbor, Regional Sales Manager on February 5, 2015

In previous posts we’ve talked about the prevalence and dangers of distracted driving and some of the legal consequences distracted driving poses to your business. Now it’s time to talk about what you can do about it. Below are steps to building a better fleet policy for distracted driving. 

Write Out a Policy

The first thing you have to do is create your policy, and this is a little more complicated than saying no cell phones while driving. An effective policy must be written down and communicated with employees. It should also:

  1. Be tailored to individual state laws. Although many states have similar laws preventing cell phone use while driving, they all have their nuances and specifics. Make sure these subtle differences are addressed in your policy based on what state(s) you operate in.
  2. Assign a specific punishment for violation. Companies with low crashes per million miles (CPMM) respond with disciplinary action, not just a warning, according to a Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS). Some companies go as far as to terminate a violator’s employment. Although this may seem severe it’s not worth someone's life or a massive lawsuit.

If you need more help writing your policy, check out these resources from Distraction.gov, including a sample employer policy, a sample press release about your policy, and a sample memo to employees about the new policy.

Adopting a paper policy against distracted driving is a natural first step, and it’s a good one, but don’t stop there. A paper policy depends entirely on employee self-enforcement. Before, during and after writing out an official company policy you need to think about how to ensure your employees follow it, then enforce your policy. Of course that’s easier said than done.

Educate Your Employees

Education is an important part of any safe, effective fleet. Make sure that your driver education plan includes facts about distracted driving, and that all of your drivers have reviewed and acknowledged your company policy on distracted driving and cell phone use.

Just educating employees to the dangers of distracted driving can cut down on violations and accidents. Need more information about driver education? Check out Union Leasing’s deep dive into driver safety training.

Prepare Your Employees For a Change

For many companies the use of cellphones while driving has simply become “part of the job.” When implementing any kind of distracted driving policy you’re going to have to overcome the temptation of being perpetually connected.

To do that you should communicate internally with your employees: tell them that a new distracted driving policy is going into effect, conduct meetings where employees can voice their concerns and ask questions, show examples from other companies, ensure employees that upper management not only supports the new policy but will also be following it themselves.

Make Safety a Priority

Driver_SafetyAccording to a NETS, companies with the lowest CPMM issue monthly reports to their employees, track crashes, have safety-oriented messages throughout company statements and training, issue full bans on cell phones while driving, and share the details of any accident — whether or not it involves an injury — with the entire staff.

In other words, make safety a highly visible priority in your company and your drivers will follow.

Keep Your Drivers Accountable

One of the easiest solutions is to invest in technology like an application that blocks cell phone use when a vehicle is in motion. Other options include reviewing call logs for company-issued phones, and cross referencing those based on whether a driver was on the road or not.

However it’s best to prevent distracted driving beforehand, rather than punishing the drivers afterwards. Either way, part of having a distracted driving policy is ensuring your drivers are held accountable.

Build Staff Buy-In

Your policy is nothing more than a piece of paper if no one is following it. Thankfully there are a few things you can do to get your employees to buy into your new safety policy:

  1. Build a culture of safety - Although some companies are tempted to incentivize safety with rewards, incentives can backfire. Over time incentives tend to become routine, ineffective, and cultivate a culture of competition rather than cooperation. A better option is to train your drivers properly and recognize outstanding safety behavior. This creates a culture of safety that is much more effective.
  2. Educate your employees - write and distribute a memo explaining why the company has decided to implement their new distracted driving policy. Keeping your drivers informed about the importance of safety ensures the new rules do not feel arbitrary or punitive.
  3. Remind employees that they are liable -  negligent driving doesn’t solely rest on the company when an accident happens, and drivers are often held personally responsible. Have employees sign your new policy and inform them that they can be held responsible for negligent driving by both the plaintiff and the company if they violate the policy.
  4. Use real stories - When introducing policy emphasize its personal importance by talking about the real world consequences of distracted driving.
  5. Finally, keep your drivers involved - take feedback about the policy, its successes, and shortcoming. Keep your drivers up to date about accident statistics and the policy’s impact on company safety. Seeing that a policy is working will greatly improve buy-in from employees.

Enforce the Policy

We’ve said it before, but here it is again with a dedicated sub-heading: enforce your policy! A paper policy means absolutely nothing if it isn’t followed. An unenforced policy does nothing to prevent an accident.

A fleet safety study recently released by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, suggests that companies that strictly enforce their no-cell-phone policies have a lower crash rate than companies with milder enforcement policies.

What’s more, an unenforced policy won’t protect you against legal action when an accident does occur. In these cases a jury is looking for a genuine commitment to safety, not an ostensible policy to which no one is held accountable.

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