Advisory Board Forum: Driver Distractions Can Do You In

  Welcome to the inaugural SSI Editorial Advisory Board column featuring perspectives from some of the industry’s most prominent business leaders. When asked to address a subject of greatest importance to me, I thought of the people who determine our success. Certainly technology, innovation, process and systems have their place related to a company’s success, but for me it’s about the importance of our people and making sure they are properly coached and developed.

Recently, I discovered the impact distracted driving can have on our company and the community at large. Second to payroll, the single largest expense for most installing security companies are vehicle fleets. SSI did a phenomenal job of gathering data on the role vehicle fleets play for security firms in its June issue (see “Super Security Fleets).

These vehicles also become our greatest risks. Having any single driver on the road for company purposes presents an inherent risk, much less 20, 30 or more drivers – and all with cell phones or smart phones these days. Whether it is your company phone they are using or their personal device, the distraction in the car presents a temptation.

A few facts:

  • More than 6,000 people are killed every year in motor vehicle accidents. The one by one loss does not drive the media’s attention but it affects 6,000 families a year, one loss at a time.
  • You only have 1.5 seconds to react in a vehicle situation. If you are distracted, you lose that second and that second may have made the difference between a golden moment or an empty chair.
  • According to a new study by the Government Highway Safety Association (GHSA), hands-free use still constitutes distracted driving. It has been proven that your mind, while on the phone, leaves the vehicle and engages with the other person on the other end of the conversation.

A friend of mine who was the former attorney for Caltrans here in California spent years of his life analyzing motor vehicle litigation cases. Over and over again the company driver would say, “I wasn’t on the phone.” The records would be subpoenaed and sure enough, it would turn out the person was checking their voicemail, texting, on the phone, reading a map, figuring out the next destination. And the families affected by the associated collisions will never be the same.

The key to how a company perceives safe driving is directly related to how the CEO and president handles distracted driving. If you are a CEO who is on the phone and does quite a bit of texting and reading while driving, the employees will emulate your behavior. This is especially true for any parents with teens who will soon be drivers. Studies show teenagers will text and talk on the phone to the degree the parent also does so in their car. They learn by the example that is set. Reports show adults between ages 31-45 are texting or talking on the phone 88 percent of the time in the vehicle.

If you don’t already have vehicle safety education in place at your company, I strongly encourage you to reach out to resources that can help you establish some parameters around distracted driving. The Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS) reported that out of 4,690 private and public sector organizations that downloaded drive safe materials, 3,067 have a cell phone policy in place. Out of that group, 1,152 banned any cell phone use while driving.

If anyone would like to comment or share more on this topic, contact me at [email protected]. After all, we are in the safety and security business.

Shandon Harbour is President of San Diego-based SDA Security.

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