AUSTIN (KXAN) – The Texas Department of Transportation is using a new tactic to encourage drivers to reduce distractions on the road: pressure from the boss.
The agency is hosting a summit to educate business leaders about the risks of not having safe-driving policies in place for their employees. TxDOT anticipates corporate executives as well as small business owners will attend the Distracted Driving Summit at the Circuit of the Americas Tuesday.
“With distracted driving responsible for 1 in every 5 crashes in Texas, we want to help business leaders understand what they can do to protect their employees, themselves and other motorists on the road,” said John Barton, TxDOT deputy executive director. “When employees crash on company time while using a mobile device, employers can be held liable for significant damages.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that employers in Texas spend $4.3 billion every year as a result of traffic crashes that can result in medical claims, absences and lost productivity. An employer’s price tag for an on-the-job crash is about $16,000 per vehicle; $76,000 per injury; and $505,000 per fatality. In recent years, numerous plaintiffs have filed and won multi-million-dollar lawsuits against employers when an employee caused injuries due to a distracted driving crash.
TxDOT Tours State with Crashed Phone
In addition to raising awareness of the cost of distracted driving within the business sector, TxDOT is taking its “Talk, Text, Crash” campaign on the road this summer. Events around the state will call attention to driver distractions that caused more than 95,000 traffic crashes in Texas last year. The events feature a car-sized, 750-pound crashed phone as the backdrop for guest speakers who will offer insight about loved ones they’ve lost due to talking and texting while driving.
Researchers at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety say drivers who use a cell phone behind the wheel are four times more likely to get into a crash serious enough to cause injury. In addition, a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute revealed almost half of Texas drivers have admitted using a cell phone while driving, and almost a quarter of drivers say they sometimes or regularly send or read text messages while driving. Distracted driving-related crashes in Texas are highest among young adults ages 16 to 24, followed by adults over the age of 44. Last year in Texas, 505 people were killed and 19,981 people were seriously injured in distracted driving crashes.
To reduce temptation, drivers can:
- Put the phone away or turn it off before getting behind the wheel.
- Pull off the road entirely before texting or talking on the phone.
- Tell friends and coworkers they will not respond to calls or texts when driving.
- Use a smartphone app that sends auto-reply texts when the owner is driving.
While cell phone use is the most recognizable driving distraction, any behavior that takes a motorist’s attention away from the road is dangerous. Distractions can include eating and drinking, grooming or programming a navigation system.