Distracted Driving & Workplace Safety Policies: A Business Case for Employers


The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) released a new report, Distracted Driving & Workplace Safety Policies: A Business Case for Employers, from its Canadian Coalition on Distracted Driving.

The report was developed in consultation with the trucking industry, the insurance industry and workplace health and safety representatives and underscores the importance of distracted driving policies in the workplace to protect employees.

Preventing distraction-related crashes on the road and in the workplace remains a priority for Canadian employers. The challenges of the past few months necessitated major adjustments to a new normal as businesses focused its attention on the COVID-19 pandemic and establishing new health and safety measures. With traffic volumes returning to normal, the safety of essential workers and others who rely on our roads remains paramount.

“In addition to the immeasurable costs for communities and families who experience death and serious injuries due to distracted driving, these collisions have significant costs and consequences for employers,” explains Robyn Robertson, President & CEO, Traffic Injury Research Foundation. “In several Canadian jurisdictions, motor vehicle collisions account for almost 1/3 of persons killed in traumatic workplace incidents.”

According to the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) in 2017, the average number of days lost for transportation employees injured within one month of a workplace incident was nine days. Not only are businesses adversely affected by resulting economic losses due to employee absenteeism (due to injuries) and the replacement of skilled workers, but they also incur significant costs to repair or replace damaged equipment, or goods that are destroyed. Costs can be exponential and not limited to the time of the crash event. Employers can expect to incur costs over a period of months, if not years, which can impact all areas of their business, and smaller companies have the most to lose.

Diverse expertise was gathered from members of TIRF’s Canadian Coalition on Distracted Driving (CCDD) and a broad range of stakeholders who attended the third and fourth Annual Meetings. TIRF also worked closely with the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA), Private Motor Truck Council of Canada (PMTC), and the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association (ISHA) to refine the business case with a focus on the transportation industry.

“The trucking industry in Canada is committed to eliminating distraction by working proactively on a number of fronts. Efforts identified in TIRF’s business case and used by Canadian Trucking Alliance members provide real-world examples of proactive steps taken by our industry,” says Geoff Wood, Senior VP, Policy, Canadian Trucking Alliance. “We continue to work cooperatively with governments and share innovative approaches to address distracted driving as part of our 10-point safety plan which also promotes the importance of driver training.”

Over the past 20 years, a consistent decline in injuries and claims has been achieved in the transportation industry due to commitment among employers to higher safety standards. In fact, the number of large trucks involved in fatal crashes generally declined between 2000 and 2015. While it fluctuated between 309 and 523 between 2000 and 2015 in Canada, more recently the number of large trucks in fatal crashes rose to 389 in 2017 (Transport Canada 2019).

Employers in this industry also recognize their critical role in prioritizing strategies to prevent distracted driving among their employees and protect them from other distracted drivers on the road to ensure declines continue.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Investment in safety translates into less turnover and higher retention rates of qualified and skilled drivers in an industry with a shrinking pool of potential candidates.
  • The cost to implement standard prevention training for all new employees is still less than the cost of post-incident training for the small number of employees that may require it.
  • A pattern of collisions and claims is an indicator of risk and ultimately results in much more expensive insurance costs. Unfortunately, many smaller companies are not fully aware of the consequences of a blemish on their National Safety Code record which can have long-lasting effects.

This business case describes the costs of prevention programs and compares them to collision costs. It illustrates the value of integrating distracted driving policies into workplace safety programs and reinforcing them in day-to-day safety practices. It also contains a call to action for employers in this industry to implement distracted driving policies as a standard component of workplace safety programs. Tools are included to help employers estimate the costs to their business and quantify the value of distracted driving safety policies which can protect staff and improve safety in the communities where they live and work.

In summary, employers contributing to the development of the business case agree, “If anyone thinks safety is too expensive, they need to measure the cost of an unsafe operation, workplace injuries and fatalities against the cost of education and effective policies.”

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