A study in the US found that 80 percent of crashes and 65 percent of near-crashes involved some form of driver inattention within three seconds of the event happening. Mobile phones and drowsiness are the primary cause of this destructive inattention. In Australia, the Transport Safety Bureau has reported 43 percent of drivers answer their phones, 24 percent make calls, 16 percent read text messages and 8 percent send text messages while driving.
With nearly half of all workplace deaths occurring while driving, the evidence is clear that minimising distraction is of utmost importance to fleet management and the community more broadly.
Drowsiness also increases the risk of incident or near-incident while driving by a factor of at least four.
Strong policy on these issues is paramount to combat the road safety problem. It applies to all employees who drive leased, hired, private (grey fleet) or company-owned vehicles used for work purposes, including transportation between work locations.
Mobile phones are prohibited from use via hand-held means while the vehicle is in motion or stationary but not parked – it is illegal and in absolutely no circumstances should it be done. Use of hands-free kits including headphones and Bluetooth systems have been shown to only reduce risk by slight margins. It should therefore be the company’s policy to prohibit mobile phone activity while driving, including text messaging or voice/calling. Switching off mobile phones allows calls to be handled by voicemail or messaging services which can be collected and responded to when the vehicle is parked and the driver no longer tasked with operating the vehicle.
Allowing additional journey time to potentially answer calls in the acceptable manner, vehicle stationary and parked, as well as issuing infringement disciplines for disobedience provides a proactive and reactive system for this concern.
Fatigue requires both employees and managers/supervisors to provide realistic time plans and schedules for stopping the potential for what is a natural physiological condition. Drivers should stop the vehicle for at least 20 minutes, only continuing when safe to do so, including terminating driving tasks when 16 hours have passed since the previous night’s sleep.
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