In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statics reported that 1,103 workers died while operating motor vehicles. This number increased to 1,153 in 2012. And OSHA, year after year, reports vehicle accidents as the leading cause of worker fatalities.

To reduce these numbers, increase workplace safety, and reduce your risk as an employer for Massachusetts workers’ compensation insurance claims, it is recommended that all workers take part in extensive defensive driving training classes to learn exact techniques for how to drive defensively.

Save Money, Save Lives, and Avoid Massachusetts Workers Compensation Insurance Claims—Teach Your Workers How to Drive Defensively

This knowledge starts with and understanding of what defensive driving means: Defensive driving is the knowledge of accident avoidance and prevention even under adverse environmental and traffic conditions. Management needs to educate drivers on defensive techniques, such as proper use of mirrors, headlights, seat belts, and any special equipment (e.g. anti-lock brakes) that a company vehicle may employ.

Here’s what’s most important for your employees to know:

Stay Focused

Driver distractions are a major threat to workplace safety. Your management should enforce policies that restrict drivers from using cell phones, text messaging, and any other superfluous activities while driving. Even hands-free devices should be restricted.

A driver traveling 60 miles per hour is moving at over 80 feet per second. If he takes his eyes off the road for two seconds—the time it takes to read a text—he travels blind for over 170 feet (over half a football field). With the number of conditions and tasks a mindful driver must constantly be aware (i.e., checking mirrors, speed limits, road and traffic conditions, the status of the vehicle’s operation, and the preparedness for any sudden changes) the driver’s focus must be maintained on operating the vehicle only.

Be Alert

Your company safety policy should state that driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is strictly prohibited. Even prescription drugs can affect reaction time and awareness. Without medical consent, drivers taking prescription drugs should not be allowed behind the wheel.

In addition, your management should be aware of their drivers’ state of rest. Lack of sleep and feeling tired cuts down reaction time and drivers that push themselves to continue are just as much a threat to workplace safety as those impaired by drugs or alcohol. Drivers need to view operating a company vehicle as a serious responsibility.

Watch Out For Other Drivers

We cannot control the behavior of other drivers on the road. The view outside the vehicle’s windows and within the driver’s mirrors is constantly changing. By scanning all areas, utilizing mirrors and windows, and being aware of blind spots, defensive drivers can take the necessary steps to avoid potential danger by adjusting speed, changing lanes, and leaving an out.

But most importantly, your operators must never assume the action of another driver. A blinker could be mistakenly left on or he/she could be impaired.

Follow the Three Second Rule

When following other vehicles, pick a stationary object ahead (e.g. speed sign, mileage markers). As soon as the vehicle in front passes the object, begin counting, “one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand, three-one-thousand.” If your vehicle reaches the object before you finish reaching “three-one-thousand,” you are following too close. Back off and allow yourself an out should the other driver stop short, or experience any kind of mechanical or personal failure. In inclement weather, increase the distance by 50% (rain), 2X (snow), and 3X (ice).

Watch Your Speed

Your company safety policy and driving protocol should also state that operating a company vehicle over the speed limit is strictly prohibited. Posted speed limits are suggested for ideal conditions only. In rain, snow, construction zones, or pedestrian-heavy areas it is important to slow down. Management should help put speed in perspective. For every mile per hour you travel, you cover nearly one and a half feet per second. That distance adds up.

Don’t Risk it

Workplace safety is not something to be taken lightly. Unsafe drivers not only cost employers to experience elevated Massachusetts workers’ compensation insurance rates, they threaten the safety of pedestrians. Defensive driving training should be mandatory in every workplace that employs the use of automobiles.

Teach your employees how to drive defensively — it saves money, and more importantly, lives.

At NARFA, we proudly operate the Automotive Industries Compensation Corporation (AICC) program designed to service Massachusetts workers’ insurance needs for employers. This program provides coverage for medical expenses, lost income, rehabilitation cost, death benefits, and more.

As part of the AICC, NARFA’s Loss Control Representatives can conduct “Defensive Driving Seminars” upon any member request. National Safety Council programs only take one hour to complete.

Help your employers learn how to drive defensively. Contact NARFA today or visit our AICC program page to learn more about member and employee benefits programs.

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