Cellphones & Driving: Putting the Brakes on Unsafe Practices

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Enforcing cellphone policy is crucial to reducing collisions.

Survey blames cellphones for collisions.

It’s the largest fleet management survey yet by the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety (NETS), and its results are hardly surprising – the safest fleets are the ones with written policies restricting the use of cellphones.

Participants from 129 countries, with a collective fleet of 521,000 vehicles that had travelled 9.8 billion miles, contributed to the study. “Of the companies that reported, 90% had a cellphone policy in place,” says Jack Hanley, NETS Executive Director. “I’m going to speculate that the 10% who do not have a policy yet, have a guideline that will progress into a policy.”

Within a year or two, Hanley says, all members who responded to this survey will have policies. NETS members include pharmaceutical, electric utilities, oil and gas, insurance and food and beverage industries located in North America, Central America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. While half of the participants are Fortune 500 companies, fleets range in size from as few as 160 vehicles to as many as 35,000.

Policy must be enforced

Hanley comments that there are two components to a cellphone policy – establishing it, and then enforcing it. “A cellphone policy isn’t worth anything unless you have it enforced,” he says. “The issue of liabil­ity, particularly in the United States and Canada, is getting bigger.”

That’s why some companies are more draconian in enforcement – 83% will discipline an employee for violating their cellphone policy, and for 43%, it’s grounds for termination.

Some companies also check cellphone records after a collision. Hanley predicts this is an area that will increase, whether the collision is severe or not.

Over half, or 56% of companies, only allow hands-free cellphones, while 41% ban any type. Eighty percent have a texting ban in place.

Data analysis indicates best practices

One of the survey’s distinguishing features is the compilation of road safety best practices, based on the collected data. This year, the companies with the lowest collisions per million miles (CPMM) were more likely to terminate a driver for violating mobile device policy, and were also more likely to review mobile phone records after a collision.

They were also more likely to publish a monthly scorecard, to have a special team or board to review collisions, and use a classroom training format for drivers.

“Those who belong to NETS have a forum for exchanging ideas, asking questions and learning from one another,” says Hanley. “Every single member who participates is going to have a safer road record.”

Future trends

In the future, Hanley predicts fleets will restrict cellphone use even more. “A huge cultural shift has to occur,” he says. “People have to understand that their productivity will not go down because they’re not using their cellphone in their car and that it’s more important to be a safer driver.”

He also sees an increase in the use of technology to monitor driver behaviour. “Fleets are already starting to install video cameras and black boxes to record acceleration, braking and more,” Hanley says. “This will give them excellent leading indicators to help identify those drivers who are more likely to be in a collision in the future so they can do some interventions.”

The NETS fleet safety benchmark survey has been conducted since 1994. For more information, go to www.trafficsafety.org.

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