Drive now. Text later.

November 19th, 2014

Distracted DriverAny time a driver is engaged in an activity that takes their attention from the task of driving, is considered distracted driving. These activities reduce the driver’s awareness, decision making, or driving performance which can lead to a potential accident.

Activities include:

  • Texting
  • Talking on your cell phone
  • Reading books, newspapers, maps, directions, email
  • Personal grooming, shaving, combing your hair, applying makeup
  • Selecting a song on your iPod/iPad, or even fiddling with the radio station
  • Eating and drinking, etc.

While in Alberta, most of the above activities can result in a distracted driving fine; all activities that divert your attention from driving is a distraction. The most important task at hand when you’re the driver in a motor vehicle, is to focus on driving safely.

Unless you’re a superhero, you’re typically only capable of focusing attention on one task at a time. When we switch attention between two or more tasks, the result is that neither driving nor the other tasks are done well. Driving is a task that involves multiple points of information which is continuously processed from road signs/signals, speedometer displays, interaction from other vehicles, and requiring us to make corrections to our driving pattern. Focusing on other distractions in the vehicle can result in a decrease of cognitive processing, resulting in reduced reaction times. Remember, even though you may see something, your mind may not be able to process it in the same time or level of complexity if you’re distracted by something else.

Here are a few ways you can reduce distracted driving:

For parents & families: set out some ground rules (similar to company standards listed below.) It may seem silly, but clearly communicating the expectations you have of people using your vehicles, or driving your kids around, is important.

For companies, incorporate various policies into your fleet safety manual (e.g.: policies such as driver duties, cell phone policies, etc.) Ensure that employees read, acknowledge and sign off on the policy, with copies retained in their employee file.

Whether at home or at work, it’s your decision on how strict the cell phone policy you develop. For parents, keep in mind that in addition to communicating cell phone rules, there are actually apps you can put on your kids phone that will not allow them to access cell phones as long as a vehicle is in motion. Aside from the rules you set out as a company/family, whatever you decide, it must follow provincial regulations. In developing the cell phone policy, a list of company specific rules should be defined for safe driving rules, including such rules as:

• When receiving a call pull over to a safe place and then return or answer the call.
• Address whether the use of hands-free devices are allowed.
• Prohibit use of cell phones during adverse weather conditions or congested traffic conditions that tend to require all of the driver’s attention.
• Plan calls during rest stops or make them before you depart on a trip.

Along with a cell phone policy, a companies fleet safety manual should clearly communicate what’s expected of your drivers, not only for driver distractions, but to include what the company’s expectations are when operating a company vehicle or using the employees’ personal vehicle on company time. They should identify certain criteria such as:

  • Specific duties such as pre and post trip inspections (e.g.: frequency, criteria etc.)
  • Maintenance requirements and procedures (e.g.: what should they do if something is malfunctioning?)
  • Create a clear policy with regard to tickets and fines while operating company vehicles or their own vehicle on company time.
  • Though this is a law across the country, you should clearly communicate that there is zero tolerance for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Other expectations to set out: drivers should be mentally and physically alert prior to each trip, all occupants should wear their seat-belts at all times, drivers must hold a valid license for their vehicle and carry it at all times, never exceed the posted speed limit and obey all traffic laws.

As we head into winter driving conditions, distracted driving becomes even more dangerous. Check your vehicle prior to heading out, know your route ahead of time and keep your focus on driving safely. By developing and communicating rules and policies, setting disciplinary action, you can help protect everyone from driving accidents.

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